About three weeks ago, the father of a 17-year old sent me an email to ask information about e-cigarettes and how to talk with his son about the health risks of e-cigarettes. E-cigarette use poses a significant but avoidable health risk to young people and causes parents, teachers, and health professionals increasing concern around the nation. Oswego County is no exception.

E-cigarettes include diversified devices to deliver inhalation of nicotine or marijuana with or without flavorings. They take on forms designed to look like cigarettes, cigars and pipes. Even more troubling, some can easily pass for USB sticks, guitar picks or a small cellphone. Because e-cigarette users inhale and exhale aerosol, the use of e-cigarettes is also called “vaping.”

A nationwide estimate shows that eight times as many 15- to 17-year-olds tried Juul, the most popular e-cigarette brand, in October 2018 compared with 2017. According to data from the New York State Department of Health, the use of e‐cigarettes has increased 160 percent, from 10.5 percent to 27.4 percent among high school youth and continues to rise. In 2018, e‐cigarettes remained the most commonly used tobacco product. The use of e-cigarettes imposes potential health risks, including respiratory diseases, brain damage, and addiction for young people.

The aerosol from e-cigarettes contains chemicals. In addition to nicotine, e-cigarettes contain ultrafine particles, able to go deep into the lungs when they are inhaled. Diacetyl, a flavoring chemical linked to severe lung diseases, benzene, an organic compound known for causing cancer and heavy metals, just name a few, have also been found in e-cigarette products.

The human brain keeps growing until the age of 25 years old. Learning experience proceeds brain cells by building stable connections and forming neural circuits to store what is learned. Nicotine affects the connections among the brain cells to influence the brain’s mood and attention control and interfere with learning and memory functions.

Nicotine by long been known to be highly addictive. Nicotine exposure inhibits the brain’s normal development and causes the brain to rely on nicotine to perform some functions that make the addict feel well and comfortable. Nicotine also primes the adolescent brain for addiction to other drugs such as cocaine. Evidence shows that e-cigarette use is linked to other substance use, such as alcohol and marijuana.

As e-cigarette use among youth and young adults increases, it is the time for us to take action to talk with them and to prevent harm from e-cigarettes. Parents, teachers, and healthcare workers all have a role.

Since the diseases caused by e-cigarettes could take decades to develop and the damages to the brain is invisible, it is wise to start with the addictive effect of e-cigarettes. Tell the young adults that if they choose e-cigarettes now, they give up the freedom of choice for the rest of their lives.

Addiction costs not only money but also interpersonal relationships. E-cigarettes are distasteful to many and pointing out when a vaping individual is bothering you, especially if they’re a loved one, may persuade a user to quit. If not, that makes e-cigarette user’s social sphere smaller, which leads to less personal advice from people who care. As the social sphere becomes smaller, the more the user is attached to e-cigarettes for comfort that draws the user deeper into the addiction. It is a vicious circle to get involved in e-cigarette use.

Help the young generation to say no to e-cigarettes and help them to have a healthy and bright future. If you have a strong stance against e-cigarettes, be a role model to quit smoking now and share your quitting experience with them.

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