Vape and Mirrors

Vape and Mirrors

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A warning for parents as e-cigarette use jumps among Louisiana children

EDITOR’S NOTE:
On May 5, 2016, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration announced long-awaited rules for the manufacture and sale of e-cigarettes nicotine vape products. This article has been updated with information about the new rules.

Electronic cigarettes hit the market a decade ago as a safer, temporary alternative for adults trying to quit smoking, but new dangers are emerging as abuse of e-cigarettes among Louisiana children and teens is growing at alarming rates.

E-cigarettes, also known as vaping pens, can leave users addicted to nicotine, and many move on to smoking tobacco cigarettes. Their chemical contents, which users consume as puffs of vapor, remain largely unknown and unregulated.

Even as fewer teens are smoking, the number of teens who vape is skyrocketing.

“E-cigarettes are becoming a gateway substance for nicotine addiction,” says Hitesh Chheda, MD, a pediatric emergency room physician at Our Lady of the Lake Children’s Hospital.

The problem is especially alarming in Louisiana. The number of Louisiana high school students who used e-cigarettes in 2015 doubled from the previous survey, according to an annual study called the Louisiana Youth Tobacco Survey. Even more unnerving, middle-school e-cigarette users tripled during the same period.

That, says Dr. Chheda, is not by accident. E-cigarette makers are savvy marketers who use social media platforms popular with adolescents. Celebrities like actor Johnny Depp and singer Katy Perry often appear vaping in public. Unlike tobacco companies, e-cigarette manufacturers are not limited in how they can market and promote their products.

“Many of the flavorings have suspiciously become more kid-friendly,” Dr. Chheda says. “There’s bubblegum flavoring, licorice flavor, vanilla and others.”

E-cigarettes have been available since 2006, yet the industry remains virtually unregulated nationally. It’s illegal to sell them to minors in Louisiana, but the law seems to be having little effect as evidenced by the rapidly rising use among middle-school children and teens.

There are more than 200 kinds of e-cigarettes on the market.

Until now, manufacturers haven’t been required to disclose the chemicals in the liquid nicotine refills, and have been unbound by the marketing and advertising limitations under which tobacco companies operate.

Responding to the alarming spike in e-cigarette use among youths, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration on May 5, 2016, announced tough new rules on the manufacture and sale of e-cigarettes and the liquids used in them, as well as tighter regulations for traditional tobacco products.

Starting in August of this year, manufacturers will have to disclose for FDA approval the ingredients in nicotine products. In addition, retailers won’t be able to sell e-cigarettes or nicotine liquids to minors, including via vending machines. Although those sales are already prohibited in Louisiana, the federal ban will mean stiffer penalties for violators and more robust enforcement.

Read more about the new regulations here.

E-cigarettes deliver nicotine, which is inherently addictive and destructive to teens’ developing brains, and can cause increased agitation or hyper aggressiveness.

In October 2015, the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP), noting the alarming rise in popularity among teens, recommended sweeping changes to laws and regulations governing e-cigarettes, including:

  • Increase the minimum age nationally for purchasing e-cigarettes and all tobacco products to 21
  • Regulate e-cigarettes and other electronic nicotine delivery systems the same as other tobacco products, including age restrictions, taxes, bans on advertising to youths and bans on flavored products that are particularly appealing to youths
  • Require child-resistant packaging on liquid nicotine
  • Apply smoke-free laws governing second-hand smoke to e-cigarettes as well

The AAP also urges pediatricians to counsel parents and caregivers who smoke about quitting, and to provide advice to all children and teens on the dangers of smoking and vaping.

For now, parents must be proactive and discuss the risks of e-cigarette use with their children right along with alcohol and drug abuse, Dr. Chheda says.

“Talk to your kids, explain these things,” Dr. Chheda says. “The laws haven’t caught up, states haven’t caught up. As a parent, you have to protect your kids. There’s nobody else.”

Is Your Teen Vaping?

The new devices are more difficult to detect than traditional cigarettes because they don’t leave a strong odor. However, there are a few signs parents can spot which may indicate your teenager is vaping.

  • You detect a sweet smell like bubblegum or, fruit punch or mint. Vape liquids often are sweet or fruit flavored, which can leave a scent.
  • If you see something that looks like a high-tech pen that doesn’t write, it may be an e-cigarette or vape pen.
  • If your teenager is drinking more fluids than usual, it could be caused by dry mouth, a common side effect of vaping.

E-cigarette Basics

What are e-cigarettes?

They are small devices in which a heating element vaporizes liquid containing nicotine, which users inhale like a cigarette. There are now more than 200 different types and brands of e-cigarettes.

What is vaping?

Vaping describes the use of e-cigarettes in which the user inhales vapor.

Why are e-cigarettes unhealthy?

Frequent users will become addicted to nicotine, which can lead to tobacco use and addiction. They also can cause increased agitation and hyper aggressiveness, and the chemical contents of nicotine liquid refills are unknown and unregulated.

Are there additional risks to younger children?

An e-cigarette liquid refill can be dangerous or deadly in the hands of a child, who may think it’s all right to drink because of its sweet, fruity flavor, only to overdose on nicotine

Do e-cigarettes burn tobacco?

No. They vaporize nicotine-infused liquids, which come in sweet and fruity flavors that are appealing to kids.

Are e-cigarettes legal?

It is illegal to sell e-cigarettes to minors in Louisiana. However, in many states they remain legal for teens to buy, and they can be purchased easily online.