Vapes may be the lesser of two evils, but that doesn’t mean that they aren’t, well, evil. Conventional cigarettes sent a generation of smokers hacking and coughing right to their deaths. By comparison, vape pens are far less dangerous. But that doesn’t mean e-cigarettes — the Juuls and KandyPens teens seem to love so much — are safe for children (or their parents).
Studies suggest that children who vape are more likely to smoke real cigarettes later on, setting back decades of anti-smoking efforts. The liquid and vapor that vape users inhale (and exhale onto others) contain harmful chemicals such as anti-freeze, a host of carcinogens, and other substances known to cause cell death. Meanwhile, the concentrated nicotine in vaping solutions poses a unique, toxic threat to small children who unintentionally swallow the liquid or spill it on their skin. In a word, e-cigarettes aren’t safe for your kids and aren’t safe around your kids.
Here’s the data behind these conclusions:
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Kids Who Vape Eventually Smoke Cigarettes
Non-smoking adolescents who use e-cigarettes are significantly more likely to start smoking conventional cigarettes within a year, according to a recent study in JAMA. Researchers surveyed more than 10,000 students between the ages of 12 and 17 and, after adjusting for various smoking risk factors, found that students who vape are about twice as likely to move on to conventional cigarettes within one year. Interestingly those who smoked e-cigarettes were about as likely to transition to conventional cigarettes one year later as those who smoked hookah, smoked cigars, or chewed tobacco. The unadjusted data tells an even more dire story—roughly 19 percent of the total number of teens who tried these products in 2013 were smoking cigarettes by 2014, as opposed to only about 4 percent of students who had never tried these products.
Even Without Tobacco, E-Cigs Aren’t Safe
Inhaling flavored e-cigarette liquids may kill white blood cells and damage lung tissue, even if the solution doesn’t contain any nicotine, according to a study in Frontiers in Physiology. Although researchers only examined cells in vitro, they found that flavoring chemicals increased the number of biomarkers that indicate inflammation, and killed more cells than unflavored solution. “Nicotine-free e-liquids have generally been considered safe; however, the impact of flavoring chemicals, especially on immune cells, has not been widely researched,” coauthor on the study Irfan Rahman of the University of Rochester Medical Center told Reuters. “Even though flavoring compounds are considered safe for ingestion, it is not safe for inhalation.”
If Babies Get Into Your E-Cig Solution, They’ll Die
Between 2010 and 2014, the number of calls to U.S. poison centers involving e-cigarette liquids rose from one per month to 215 per month, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. More than half of these calls involved children under the age of five. That’s not surprising—these nicotine solutions come in flavors attractive to children, such as bubblegum and cotton candy, and often contain a lethal dose of nicotine when ingested. A 5 mL bottle can contain up to 100 mg of nicotine. The lethal dose for adults is 30-60 mg. For children, it’s 10 mg. The data below is taken from a BMJ study, which examined the amount of nicotine in several brand-name solutions, and concluded that unsecured vials pose a significant threat to children.
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