While plenty of adults who were once hooked on cigarettes have found a way to wean themselves using e-cigs, a new concern has entered the arena. According to a new study published last May in the journal Jama Pediatrics, 4.9 percent of American adults living with a child younger than 18 report using e-cigarettes. Adults living with children who do not use e-cigarettes came in at 4.2 percent. The authors of the study — out of Maine Medical Center — say this could be because of the younger age of e-cigarette users mixed with the perception that vaping is safer than smoking.
But is it?
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), vaping use is steadily increasing. And while there’s growing concern about the toxic ingredients in e-cigs (the aerosol contains high concentrations of nicotine; tobacco-specific nitrosamines; and heavy metal that leaks from the e-cig’s heating coils), many parents think the watery vapor is safe for kids, according to a study published in Pediatrics in March 2019. Researchers found that only one in five parents who use e-cigarettes have strict rules against vaping in their homes and cars. The lead author, Jonathan Winickoff, M.D., is the director of pediatric research at the Tobacco Research and Treatment Center at Massachusetts General Hospital. Winickoff says parents are vaping in front of their children without understanding what the effects are and what the science shows already.
The Pediatrics study — which includes responses from parents in Tennessee — shows kids can get nicotine into their systems in three ways:
• By inhaling the aerosol their parents vape.
• By ingesting the nicotine and other toxic compounds left on surfaces: The aerosol can coat floors, bedrooms, kitchens and anywhere else vaping occurs. Little ones crawling around on floors can get it on their hands
which can go to their mouths.
• By absorbing it directly through the skin: Kids’ skin is thinner, so just like an adult who is trying to quit smoking might put a nicotine patch on his skin, a child whose parents vape can absorb the substance that way.
Winickoff says while parents are trying to use vape products to protect their kids, research shows they are actually using the vapes right in front of their kids — the same way parents used cigarettes before the dangers of second-hand smoke became realized.
Parents using e-cigs are more likely to safeguard their younger children from their vaping, according to the Pediatric’s study, but we now know that e-cigarettes are dangerous for kids of all ages. Not to mention the fact that just seeing parents vape increases the chances that the kids will go on to become vapers, too.