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Electronic Cigarettes

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KEY POINTS

  • Electronic cigarettes are battery-operated devices that make a vapor that the person inhales.
  • Electronic cigarettes contain harmful chemicals and may contain nicotine, which can lead to addiction. They may worsen breathing and cause lung damage, pneumonia, or other health problems.
  • There are health risks and no benefits for adults, teens, and children who use e-cigarettes.

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What are electronic cigarettes?

Electronic cigarettes (e-cigarettes) are battery-operated devices that may look like a cigarette, cigar, pipe, pen, flash drive, or other common item. They make a smokeless vapor that the person inhales. Because of this, using an e-cigarette is called vaping.

E-cigarettes come in different designs and styles but have these things in common:

  • A battery
  • A heating element
  • A cartridge that holds nicotine and flavorings
  • A mouthpiece

Some e-cigarettes have a rechargeable battery and refillable cartridges. Others are disposable.

Other names used are e-cigs, e-hookahs, electronic nicotine delivery systems (ENDS), mods, tank systems, vapes, vaping devices, or vape pens.

What are the risks?

Children and teens should not use e-cigarettes. E-cigarettes contain chemicals, including flavorings that appeal to children and teens. These chemicals can irritate your child’s lungs and worsen breathing problems including asthma. It is possible that some of these chemicals may cause lung damage, pneumonia, or cancer. The vapor from e-cigarettes may also be harmful to people who are near someone who is vaping, like secondhand smoke. For this reason, many cities have passed laws against vaping in public places. Vapor from e-cigarettes also contains chemicals that can stay on surfaces such as carpet, floors, walls, and clothes. People can be exposed to these chemicals by touching a surface and then touching their mouth or nose. Babies and children are at greater risk of exposure because they put their hands in their mouths often.

The colors, scents, and flavorings in the chemicals make them very attractive to toddlers and children. It is very important to keep them out of reach to prevent serious injury or even death.

Most e-cigarettes contain nicotine that can lead to addiction. Nicotine can affect the way your child’s brain develops. Nicotine causes the heart to beat faster and blood pressure to go up. This puts a strain on the heart and can increase your child’s risk for heart disease and stroke. The liquid nicotine used to refill some e-cigarettes can cause death if swallowed.

Nicotine during pregnancy can cause problems such as premature delivery or low birth weight.

E-cigarettes do not produce water vapor. They produce very fine particles of chemicals that may be more concentrated than chemicals in tobacco cigarettes.

Some people believe that e-cigarettes can help them quit smoking. There is no proof that e-cigarettes help your child quit. The FDA has not approved e-cigarettes as a safe and effective way to quit smoking. E-cigarettes deliver nicotine in a way that can continue the nicotine and smoking addiction. Some experts believe that e-cigarettes are more addictive than other sources of nicotine.

What are signs of addiction?

Signs of being addicted to e-cigarettes include:

  • Vaping often and not being able to go more than a few hours without it
  • Switching to e-cigarettes that contain higher amounts of nicotine
  • Needing e-cigarettes first thing in the morning
  • Having very strong cravings when trying to stop using e-cigarettes

Are there any benefits?

There are health risks and no benefits for children and teens who use e-cigarettes.

How can I take care of my child?

If your child is ready to quit, help your child with these things:

  • Set a quit date and tell family and friends. Some people gradually vape less in the days leading up to their quit date. Others use the same amount right up to their quit date.
  • It may also help if your child uses sugarless gum, hard candy, beef jerky, or sunflower seeds in place of the e-cigarettes.
  • Throw out all e-cigarette products.
  • Write down the reasons for not wanting to use e-cigarettes and review them whenever tempted to vape.
  • Make a list of the situations, places, or emotions that make your child more likely to vape. These things are called triggers. Being aware of these triggers can help your child avoid them or be ready for them. For example, if your child always vapes after an argument, your child can plan to take a walk the next time there’s an argument.
  • Change daily routines and take on new activities that don't include e-cigarettes. Your child could join an exercise group or take up a sport. Your child might want to try drawing, making models, or other activities that keep the hands busy.
  • Encourage your child to spend time with people who don't smoke or vape. It is also helpful to learn ways to relax and manage stress. Talk about what your child could buy with the money by not buying e-cigarettes.
  • You may be able to find a program for teens through local hospitals or the American Cancer Society.
  • Encourage your child to keep trying. Many people try more than once to quit before they finally succeed.

See your healthcare provider for information and help in quitting. For more information, contact:

Developed by Change Healthcare.
Pediatric Advisor 2019.4 published by Change Healthcare.
Last modified: 2019-10-07
Last reviewed: 2019-10-08
This content is reviewed periodically and is subject to change as new health information becomes available. The information is intended to inform and educate and is not a replacement for medical evaluation, advice, diagnosis or treatment by a healthcare professional.
© 2018 Change Healthcare LLC and/or one of its subsidiaries
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