Jon Daniell, MD
E-cigarettes are battery-powered devices that often look like a pen or USB drive, that allow users to inhale or “vape” into their lungs aerosolized liquid that contains nicotine. Some of the devices can even be modified to use marijuana or other drugs. “Juuling” has become a common term for using a vaporizing, e-cigarette as it is the manner of using one of the most popular brands of e-cigarette, Juul.
Teens are particularly attracted to “juuling” because of the device’s sleek design and fruity or perfume-like odor. Mango, cucumber, mint, fruit medley — these flavors are used to introduce youth and young adults to nicotine. In 2009, federal law stopped any flavoring other than menthol in cigarettes, but electronic cigarettes — or e-cigarettes — are unregulated and exploit the flavors to attract young consumers. A second advantage of these flavors is it is far more difficult to detect these flavors as a “cigarette” smell.
Although e-cigarettes are marketed as a safer alternative to smoking, they are still dangerous:
Most e-cigarettes contain nicotine, an addictive substance that can negatively impact adolescent brain development.
One Juul pod can contain as much nicotine as a pack of cigarettes.
Side effects include increased heart rate and blood pressure, lung disease, chronic bronchitis and insulin resistance leading to type 2 diabetes.
Some e-cigarettes that claim to be nicotine-free do contain the harmful substance.
Studies have found toxic chemicals such as formaldehyde and an antifreeze ingredient in e-cigarettes.
Almost 60 percent of people who use e-cigarettes also currently smoke conventional cigarettes, according to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
The vapor exhaled by e-cigarette users contains carcinogens and is a risk to nearby nonusers, just like secondhand tobacco smoke.
As parents, family members and medical professionals, we should make sure that we have an honest and factual discussion about the dangers and risks involved with e-cigarettes. The advertising and social media pressures of the day should be countered by informative, truthful conversation.