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Electronic Cigarettes

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KEY POINTS

  • Electronic cigarettes are battery-operated devices that make a vapor that the user inhales.
  • E-cigarettes contain harmful chemicals and may contain nicotine, which can lead to addiction. They may worsen breathing and cause other health problems.

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What are electronic cigarettes?

Electronic cigarettes, also called e-cigarettes, are battery-operated devices that may look like a cigarette or cigar. They make a smokeless vapor that the user 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

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

What are the risks?

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.

E-cigarettes also 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 cancer. The vapor from e-cigarettes may also be harmful to people who are near someone who is vaping, similar to secondhand smoke. For this reason, many cities have passed laws against vaping in public places.

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 way to quit smoking. E-cigarettes deliver nicotine in a way that continues the nicotine and smoking addiction.

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 some 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 him:

  • Make a plan:
    • Set a quit date and tell his 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 to chew sugarless gum or eat hard candy, beef jerky, or sunflower instead of smoking or chewing tobacco.
    • Throw out all e-cigarette products.
    • Have your child write down his reasons for not wanting to use e-cigarettes and review them whenever he feels tempted to vape.
    • Make a list of the situations, places, or emotions that make him more likely to vape. These things are called triggers. Being aware of these triggers can help him avoid them or be ready for them. For example, if he always vapes after an argument, he can make a plan to take a walk the next time he has an argument.
  • Help your child change his daily routines and take on new activities that don't include e-cigarettes. He could join an exercise group or take up a sport. He might want to try drawing, making models, or other activities to keep his hands busy.
  • Encourage him 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 he could buy with the money he would have spent on 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 RelayHealth.
Pediatric Advisor 2016.4 published by RelayHealth.
Last modified: 2016-02-23
Last reviewed: 2016-02-18
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.
Copyright © 2016 RelayHealth, a division of McKesson Technologies Inc. All rights reserved.
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