HOUSTON - More than 5 million middle and high school students in the US used e-cigarettes last year.
“The thing about vaping is that people often don’t realize is that we’re not talking about new drugs, we’re talking about a new way to use drugs,” said Kiersten Collins, Manager of Children and Adolescent Services with The Council.
Those drugs include nicotine and THC, and even chemicals like cyanide.
“Now we have access to them and they can be put into a body at a higher rate in a more alarming way,” added Collins.
For example, some vaping liquids contains as much as 5 percent nicotine.
“[Teens] don’t really understand all the risk factors and how much 5 percent nicotine is; Which is really a whole pack of cigarettes that they could smoke with an e-cigarette in an hour,” said Beth Eversole, CEO of Palmer Drug Abuse Program.
Eversole and others say vaping is the main problem they see among teens and children now.
“What we’re seeing is increased use. We’re seeing increased compulsive use, so continuing to use despite having these concerns and the access,” explained Eversole.
The summit’s keynote address was presented by Dr. Amy Arrington of Texas Children’s Hospital. She also addressed how accessible vaping devices and liquids are to teens.
“There are explicit directions on YouTube and on Google on how to make any device you want to make,” Arrington told the packed room of professionals.
In 2019, one in four 12th graders vaped. Just at Texas Children’s Hospital, Arrington reports from July through September of 2018, 11 teens between 15 and 19 were hospitalized because of a vaping related injury.
However, there are also long term effects on the body and brain.
“It can interfere with processes that are critical to memory, to learning,” Arrington warned.
The biggest and most alarming problem they say is how aggressive the makers of the vaping devices and flavors market their products.
“I find this probably the most disturbing is what they have marketed towards children. So, things that look exactly like Oreos or Snickers, or Krispy Kreme [doughnuts], Sour Patch Kids,” Arrington said looking at a slide with images of the bottles vaping liquids.
“It tends to aid kids in using things faster,” concluded Collins.
Arrington adds the flavored liquids are not only a danger to the kids who are vaping, but also to younger kids who may see them and think it’s candy.
In fact, between January 2012 and April 2017, the National Poisoning Data System reported nearly 8,300 cases of liquid nicotine poisoning.
Clinical signs of e-cigarette related lung injury include: fever, elevated heart rate, sore throat, cough, chest pain, shortness of breath, weight loss, nausea, vomiting, diarrhea, fatigue and muscle aches.