Tobacco Use & Vaping with Dr. Patty Carlin-Janssen

An e-cigarette or electronic cigarette is a device that heats up vapor that can then be inhaled. They are typically rechargeable or some run on battery. Some of them will look like a regular cigarette, some look like cigars and some of them will look like other items, such as lipstick or a flash drive for your computer. As the fluid gets heated, it becomes a vapor. That's where they get the nickname of vaping. With e-cigarettes the vapor can contain many different items. Most commonly it will contain nicotine, the same type of addictive stuff that is in cigarettes and other forms of tobacco. Trying to find out what some of the other ingredients that are in e-cigarettes can be very difficult. They can contain several different harmful toxic substances. Flavoring is typically added to e-cigarettes to try to make them taste better and to seem more appealing to new users.

E-cigarettes are not safe at all. When they first became available, they were marketed to people as a safer alternative to cigarettes, and that just hasn't shown to be true at all. They carry risks of addiction because of the nicotine that is present in most of them and we have certainly seen other types of lung injuries that have occurred from the substances in them. Since they haven't been around that long, the long-term effects of the different toxins and chemicals that are in them are also not known.

Vaping has been quite popular amongst new users of nicotine. The flavors that they have available make it more appealing and can make it taste and smell better. Also because there isn't that typical cigarette smoke, they're easier to hide and use in locations where you would not be able to use cigarettes or cigars. Also because they are new and novel, that oftentimes appeals to younger people.

Tips for parents when they are talking to their children about nicotine use and e-cigarette use includes:

  • Be a good example for your child. If you are a smoker, talk to your child about your own attempts and struggles to quit smoking.
  • Tell them about some of the negative health effects that smoking can have.
  • Reinforce that these are not a safe alternative to cigarettes.

When it comes to the timing of having these conversations with your kids about smoking and vaping, the sooner or younger, the better. Kids from a very young age will see people out in the community smoking or using e-cigarettes and may have questions about them. Letting them know what your thoughts are at that time can be helpful. Certainly by middle school age it is time to really sit down and have these serious conversations with your children.

When someone starts using tobacco or nicotine products and is ready to quit, there are many different resources available. some of these resources include 1-800 QUIT-NOW and by all means you can talk to your health care provider about other appropriate strategies to cut down and quit using as well.