Tobacco companies are continuously looking for new customers. Vapes are a new way to get young people addicted to nicotine, which is often difficult to quit. The take-up of vaping by young people is increasing. Research shows that 1 in 5 young people have vaped.
Electronic cigarettes or e-cigarettes, often called ‘vapes’, are designed to deliver vapourised liquids into the lungs. There are many different styles of vapes available and they can be difficult to spot as they often look like other objects, e.g. highlighters, pens and USB drives.
The main ingredient in vapes is propylene glycol, vegetable glycerine or glycerol, and they often also contain nicotine, flavours and other chemicals. Vapes may contain harmful chemicals that aren’t listed on the pack.
The biggest misunderstanding about vapes is that they are harmless compared to cigarettes. This is not true. Vapes are not safe.
Nicotine is a drug that is often in vapes and is highly addictive for young brains. It can cause long-lasting negative effects on brain development. Nicotine changes the way brain synapses are formed in young people. The impacts can include impaired attention, learning, memory, and changes in mood. Vaping products are often not labelled or are incorrectly labelled. The labels may state that vapes are nicotine free, but many of these products contain nicotine and a lot of other chemicals. They just don’t write it on the pack.
Vapes may expose young people to chemicals and toxins at levels that have the potential to cause negative health effects. Vapes can leave a young person at increased risk of depression and anxiety. Vaping has also been linked to serious lung disease. Importantly, many of the long-term harms of vaping are still unknown. The liquid in vapes and the vapour is not water. Vapes can expose young people to:
the same harmful chemicals found in cleaning products, nail polish remover, weed killer and bug spray
toxins such as formaldehyde and heavy metals
ultrafine particles that can be inhaled deep into the lungs
flavouring chemicals such as diacetyl (a chemical linked to serious lung disease)
Vapes have even been known to explode causing serious burns.
You may not know your child is vaping as vapes are small and resemble common items like highlighters, pens and USB drives. They are also not easy to smell. Tell-tale signs that your child might be vaping include the symptoms of nicotine addiction such as your child feeling irritable or anxious. If your child is vaping, encourage them to stop and let them know that help is available and you are there for them. Stopping vaping can sometimes be hard and your child may need advice from a GP.
If you suspect your child is vaping, take the time to talk to them about it and help them understand all of the risks. Vaping is not a normal or safe thing to do. It is important to let your child know the risks of vaping. Try to start the conversation with your child in a relaxed, easy-going way, perhaps taking the cue from around you, such as a news story about it or seeing people vaping on the street. And have your facts ready.