PM Pediatrics
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Dr. Christina Johns
Senior Medical Advisor, PM Pediatrics

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Surgeon General Slams E-cigs

I don’t know where you stand on this, but I’ve gotten to the point where I not only can’t be near those who are actively smoking cigarettes, I can’t even be around people who have smoked in (what appears to be) the last decade.  The smell that permeates everything, the yellowish discoloration of the teeth… and I haven’t even gotten to the health hazards yet!  Just yuck, big time.  And to think that when I was in high school (scarily dating myself here) there was a smoking area for students at the back of the school! The only thing worse than adults smoking is kids smoking. Or so I thought.

I’ve got to give the big thumbs down to the whole e-cigarette gig as well.

I read an article the other day in which a teenager stated that her first experience with e-cigarettes was good because the taste was like a JOLLY RANCHER CANDY (healthline.com).  With nicotine and other chemicals. What the actual heck.  The fact is that most of these products are made to generate an aerosolized mixture containing chemicals but “flavored” with everything from lemon to cinnamon that are inhaled by the user.

thumbs down to e-cigarettes

The Office of the Surgeon General and the American Academy of Pediatrics recently both published reports that stated their position AGAINST these types of products.  They report that the use of e-cigarettes doesn’t decrease the number of teens who smoke and in fact does not provide a safe alternative to smoking. I can’t help but agree. The early data suggests that teens aren’t using smokeless tobacco products as a conduit to getting OFF of nicotine completely.  So it’s not clear to me what’s redeeming about them.  Nicotine is addictive and has effects on the body like elevating the heart rate and blood pressure, as well as harmful effects on the brain.  Too much of it and a very abnormal heart rhythm can result — or worse.  Poisonings from these substances are on the rise (CDC, AAP).

The counterargument is that these inhaled mixtures are less harmful than traditional cigarettes and that they help people quit smoking altogether.

But the data isn’t clear on that, and these vaping materials are not dose regulated. They can vary widely in amounts of chemicals, thereby increasing the health risk of harmful side effects.  They are also described as “normalizing traditional smoking behaviors” since most mimic conventional cigarette use.  No one can support THAT, right?  You still look like you’re smoking in the typical sense.  Just no.

Alright, now what?

A few things.

First, support any legislation for banning of the sale of e-cigarettes to anyone under 18 and requiring it to be packaged in child-resistant material. It also shouldn’t be allowed in schools.  At all.

Second, be a good model.  Tough to tell a kid not to do something when you’re doing whatever “it” is.  I’m not gonna get all preachy here but it’s the truth.

Finally, if you use the stuff, please, for the love of mothers everywhere, keep it locked up and out of reach of any kids.  And remember, you’re doing it to try to STOP your nicotine cravings altogether. Right!!??

Maybe you’re reading this and thinking this post has stated the obvious like no other.  Could be. But I can’t tell you the number of parents of poisoned teens whom I’ve encountered at work who are shocked by the risk-taking behaviors of their kids.  It could be any of our kids, anytime, anywhere, so let’s be vigilant, act like a village, keep an eye out for each other and our kids, and state the obvious OUT LOUD so it‘s not taken for granted or ignored.

Any amount of cigarette and e-cigarette use is a problem in the adolescent population, and we need to address it.

 

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