You might have heard the good news: conventional cigarette smoking among teens declined from 2011 to 2014.
Unfortunately, e-cigarette use – or “vaping” - among middle and high school students rose during that same period and surpassed teen use of all other tobacco products.
Now the federal Food and Drug Administration (FDA) wants to regulate these potentially addictive cigarettes.
The latest statistics
According to the 2014 National Youth Tobacco Survey, from 2013 to 2014 alone, e-cigarette use:
- Increased from 4.5 percent to 13.4 percent among high school students, rising from 660,000 to 2 million teens.
- Rose from 1.1 percent to 3.9 percent among middle school students, increasing from 120,000 to 450,000 students.
Nicotine is still a concern
E-cigarettes are battery-powered devices that vaporize a solution containing nicotine that is inhaled. Hence the term, “vaping.”
Experts believe that e-cigarettes appeal to teens partly because they have been marketed as being safer than regular cigarettes. They also come in a variety of kid-appealing flavors such as cotton candy, bubble gum, chocolate, peppermint and peanut butter cup.
There hasn’t been a lot of definitive research on e-cigarettes, so there are many unanswered questions about them. But government health officials and the American Academy of Pediatrics are against vaping for several reasons, including:
- Nicotine is highly addictive and can affect the developing adolescent brain.
- E-cigarettes contain chemicals other than nicotine, but because they aren’t regulated by the federal government, there’s little information on what those additives are and whether they are harmful.
- There is concern that vaping may lead to conventional smoking.
The FDA is finalizing a rule that would give it regulatory authority over e-cigarettes. Such power would allow the FDA to impose age restrictions on buying e-cigarettes, and require health warnings and the disclosure of all ingredients.
What parents can do
Here are some tips for parents who want to keep their children from smoking e-cigarettes, or persuade them to stop:
- Start talking to your children about smoking when they are 5 or 6 years old and continue the conversation through high school.
- Tell your children directly that you don’t want them to smoke and explain the dangers.
- Set a good example by not smoking. Parents who smoke are more likely to have children who smoke.
- If your teen smokes, try to avoid threats and ultimatums. Find out why he or she is smoking and talk about ways to quit.
If you are concerned that your child is using e-cigarettes or you need more advice on how to approach the subject with your kids, be sure to talk to your child’s health care provider.