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You may have seen several news reports of very severe lung disease and deaths from use of e-cigarettes. We know almost all of the ingredients in e-cigarettes can harm the lungs. The flavoring chemicals can cause coughing, wheezing and sometimes severe lung damage. The vehicle (propylene glycol and glycerin) can damage lung cells and cause a type of pneumonia called lipoid pneumonia. The battery can blow up causing burns, facial injury, broken jaws and eye injury. Even the inhaled nicotine can be harmful.
There is no evidence that e-cigarettes are safer than traditional cigarettes.
Nicotine is one of the most addictive chemicals known. In fact, patients have told me it is much easier to kick heroin than to kick nicotine and tobacco (not that I advocate any illicit drug). Signs of addiction can start very soon after initial use.
The JUUL product, however, has patented a nicotine salt in a very high concentration. It seems to be even more addictive than the usual freebase nicotine, which perhaps explains why it is hooking so many of our kids.
The e-cigarette industry markets to young people. The industry created a wealth of youth-appealing flavors and aggressively marketed their highly-addictive products on television, magazines, convenience stores and social media. The industry also developed a wealth of “stealth” e-cigarette products to make their use easier to hide. The most common of these is the JUUL – designed to look like a USB drive for a computer.
Today’s generation of electronic cigarettes does not look at all like a traditional cigarette – it can look like almost anything.
What can a parent to do?
- Talk to your kids about e-cigarettes, vapes and JUUL. Let them know how addictive and dangerous these products are and how the industry targets them to get them hooked.
- Know what e-cigs, vapes and JUUL look like – so you can recognize if your child has one.
- Be a role model for your child. Do not smoke or use electronic cigarettes.
What if I am using electronic cigarettes, Vapes or JUUL?
- The best thing to do is to stop. There is nothing healthy about them.
- Do not modify the devices, do not use flavors, do not increase the voltage. This makes these already harmful products even more dangerous.
- Seek medical attention if you develop breathing problems such as cough, shortness of breath, chest pain, nausea or vomiting. Let your doctor know you use e-cigarettes, how much you use, what kind of e-cigarette you use, and any other substances used in the e-cigarette. If possible, bring your doctor a sample of what you are using so it can be tested.
Where can I get help?
For help stopping smoking or electronic cigarettes:
- Free telephone counseling:
- Online help from the National Cancer Institute
- Talk to your doctor about FDA approved medications that can help you stop smoking.