Apr 8, 2014

Dr. Gellner: E-cigarettes are being safe alternative to smoking, but are they really? I'm Dr. Cindy Gellner, and we're going to talk about e-cigarettes and your kids next on The Scope.

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Dr. Gellner: I have a lot of patients and their parents who either are former smokers and are not e-cigarette users or just are e-cigarette users. It seems to be growing in the number of people I talk to using e-cigarettes. So are they really safe? Well, no. That's the bottom line. They still contain nicotine, which is a very highly addictive drug and put that into your body. Because e-cigarettes don't turn tobacco, people don't inhale the same amount of tar and carbon monoxide as they used to with the regular cigarettes, but you still get an unhealthy dose of nicotine and other chemicals that we really don't know a whole lot about.
They started out as being marketed just to smokers as a way to help them quit, but now that they're everywhere, teenagers are starting to get into them, too, and a lot of it could be peer pressure. 'Come on. I've got one. Jenny McCarthy smokes one. I've seen her commercial. If she can do it, I can, too.' And you may not even know if your child's smoking it because they don't have a whole lot of odor to them. Plus, the other thing is that they're becoming popular because they come in cool flavors like bubblegum, berry surprise, and chocolate. I mean, come on, who doesn't want to smoke chocolate? But seriously, that's not something you want your child doing because there's still nicotine. A lot of people are reading that nicotine isn't that bad. 'Come on. It's not addictive. It's not harmful.' It is. Besides being addictive, nicotine is toxic in high doses. You may not realize it, but it was once even used as an insecticide. Think about that the next time you're pulling a drag off of an e-cigarette or a regular cigarette.
Another thing to consider. As e-cigarettes have become more popular, the federal government is actually looking for ways to regulate their use, especially among teenagers. A study in March in the Journal of American Medical Association, the Pediatric Section reported that 3.3 percent of 6th to 12th graders said they've actually tried e- cigarettes back in 2011. In 2012, that number doubled to 6.8 percent. So using data from the Center for Disease Control and Prevention, the study found kids who had tried e-cigarettes were more likely to try real cigarettes than those who hadn't, and those kids end up being long-time smokers. The best way to keep your child away from the e- cigarettes is to avoid being around smokers or vapors in the first place. Let them understand the dangers. Make sure you aren't smoking or vaping either. If your teen is already on e-cigarettes, encourage them to not smoke them anymore. Focus on their immediate downsides. Kids don't usually consider how their current behaviors can affect their future health, but they sure understand that if they are spending money on e-cigarettes, they don't have money to spend on other things like music, games, and stuff like that. If your child does want to try and keep the habit, make sure you have a plan and set a date for when your child is going to quit. Keep them busy doing exercises or something else that will keep the urge to smoke under control.
Get support. I'm sure there's going to be a lot of support groups for e-cigarettes, just like they are for smokers. You can definitely do an online or in-person support group to help you or your child stop smoking. Kids are quick to observe any contradictions between what their parents say and what they do. You might be surprised to learn that most kids say the adult they want to be most like when they grow up is their parent. So, if you smoke or vape, quit. If your child shows an interest in smoking or vaping, talk to them about the risks. There are no benefits. Help them to stay clean.

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