Vaping products are becoming a more popular substitute for cigarette users, but it’s also becoming more popular for kids, which is detrimental to their brain development.
Jennifer Kelsey, advanced practice registered nurse for family medicine with OSF, held a vaping information class Thursday afternoon for seventh- and eighth-graders at Wallace Elementary School in rural Ottawa as part of a series across the county and asked students a couple of questions early in the presentation.
Students were asked to sit down if they knew someone their own age who smoked cigarettes, which led to no response from the students. However, when asked if they know someone their own age who uses e-cigarettes nearly two-thirds of the class sat down.
“It’s definitely increased in the adolescent population because kids have the perception that it’s safer and the flavors are appealing and it’s just like eating candy,” Kelsey said.
An e-cigarette is an electronic device that heats a liquid and produces an aerosol or mix of small particles in the air that is inhaled. The devices come in many shapes, such as similar to a cigarette or a pipe, but can also look like everyday items, such as a USB flash drive or a pen. The devices all require a battery, heating element and a place to hold the liquid that comes in a variety of flavors.
Students showed a solid understanding of the devices at the start of the presentation, with many of them acknowledging the devices can include the addictive substance nicotine and harm their lungs.
A piece of information Kelsey shared with them they were not familiar with is the use of e-cigarettes can be particularly harmful to those 25 years of age and younger.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention states on its website e-cigarettes containing nicotine are not only addictive but also can harm adolescent brain development.
The CDC also notes that some of the chemicals used to flavor e-cigarettes can be safe to eat but not to inhale as the stomach can process more substances than the lungs.
The FDA has found many young users begin smoking e-cigarettes because of the flavors and then make the transition to cigarettes later in life, which led to them announcing an effort to restrict flavored e-cigarette sales last year.
The CDC stated it’s difficult to determine which e-cigarette products contain nicotine as some marked as containing 0 percent nicotine have still been found to contain the addictive substance.
Kelsey said she was asked to stop by a school struggling with students using e-cigarettes earlier and has since continued offering the session to other schools that would host her. She's noticed an increase in her own pediatrics population, which includes those younger than the age of 18.
Wallace Elementary students were quick to respond with variations of “no” when asked by Kelsey how they’d respond should someone ask them to smoke after the presentation.
“Heck, no,” one shouted from the back.
Fast facts from the FDA
• Among middle and high school students, 3.62 million were current users of e-cigarettes in 2018.
• E-cigarette use increased 78 percent among high school students and 48 percent among middle school students from 2017 to 2018.
• 81 percent of current youth e-cigarette users cite the appealing flavors as a primary reason to use.