Talking To Kids About E-Cigarettes
Recent news stories would have you believe that electronic cigarettes, and the e-liquid they contain, pose a serious threat that requires extensive government regulation. Apparently, teenage smokers experimenting with e-cigs is a worrisome trend and 1,300 e-liquid poisonings last year (out of nearly 1 million poisoning cases) is a big concern for the public. While accidental ingestion of e-liquid can cause serious harm and no one wants teenagers using e-cigs, overreaching government legislation won't prevent kids from gaining access to these products. It's the job of parents to use common sense and protect their children from dangerous household substances, including liquid nicotine. And the best way to discourage teenagers from smoking or using electronic cigarettes is to be open and honest about the subject.
In the hands of responsible adults, electronic cigarettes produce a satisfying vapor that is an excellent alternative to toxic tobacco smoke. It tastes delicious and contains virtually none of the harmful chemicals, providing plenty of good reasons for smokers to consider e-cigs. Although the majority of electronic cigarette ingredients are non-toxic and widely considered safe for human consumption, nicotine is a highly addictive substance and can be dangerous in high concentrations.
The Dangers Of Liquid Nicotine
Nicotine, as you may or may not know, is a natural-occurring pesticide that can be HIGHLY TOXIC in large doses. Most people are well aware of the addictive nature of nicotine, but it can also be deadly. Although the concentrations in a standard bottle of e-liquid are relatively low and unlikely to cause serious harm to an adult when inhaled, that doesn't mean it won't make a person (especially a young child) sick. The bigger cause for concern is nicotine in it's liquid form, which can be extremely hazardous to anyone who ingests or comes into direct contact with it. In 2013, e-liquid used in electronic cigarettes led to more than 1,300 calls to poison control centers, with that number expected to double this year, according to the National Poison Data System (NPDS).
Toddlers Are Naturally Attracted
Unfortunately, electronic cigarettes and the liquids that fill them are intriguing to adults and small children alike. Bright colored e-liquid bottles and the delicious scent of e-cig vapor appeals to our senses; kids however, may confuse these products with candy and try to ingest them. Most e-liquid companies provide childproof safety caps, but no security measure is 100% full proof and accidents can occur if e-liquid is not treated with care. The fact that young children like to mimic the actions of adults is another reason to use caution, since matches and lighters are not required to operate an e-cig. With no clue about the potential for harm, children may think that vaping is a fun thing to do and play with an e-cigarette left unattended.
Small children are especially vulnerable to nicotine poisoning that may occur when e-juice is ingested or applied to the skin. When present in high doses it binds to the receptors in the brain, resulting in a loss of motor control, hyperactivity, elevated heart rate and blood pressure, nausea or vomiting. For young children the effects of nicotine can be extreme, so it goes without saying that e-liquid, especially DIY nicotine supplies, should be kept well out of their reach in a secure location.
Talking To The Little Ones
Electronic cigarette safety is the job of parents, and outside of an outright ban, no government intervention will fully protect your kids. Nicotine poisoning is a serious issue that should not be taken lightly, so make sure that your little ones understand these important points:
- E-LIQUID IS NOT CANDY!!!
- It will make you sick if you swallow or touch it, and
- E-cigarettes are only meant to be used by adults
Put in place the appropriate safety measures and model your vaping behavior so that your kids will not try to emulate it. Address a child's natural curiosity by talking openly about why you vape, the potential for danger and answer any questions they have about vaping honestly.
Special Focus: How To Talk To Teens
Most states have laws to prevent sales to minors, but adolescents are known for breaking the rules and may begin using e-cigarettes before they fully understand the consequences. Talking to teenagers about a legal product that seems harmless could lead to some difficult questions, such as why you started vaping (if you use electronic cigarettes) and why they're not allowed.
Much of what you say may be repeating what they already know, but stressing the obvious is sometimes necessary to drive home the point:
- Even though it's not a cancer-causing agent, nicotine is a highly addictive substance that could lead to a lifelong habit that's difficult to quit.
- No one knows the long-term health consequences of vaping, so even though it may be safer than smoking, it could still cause serious health complications in the future.
- Most adults ARE NOT using e-cigarettes for fun – they're a helpful tool to help them quit smoking.
- E-liquid can be hazardous; especially to small children. If you're going to vape, you should be especially careful with your vaping gear and store your e-liquid in a secure location.
No matter how you view teen vaping, tread lightly and avoid getting angry or using an accusatory tone, especially if you're a vaper yourself. Lecturing or disciplining your kids too harshly could have the opposite effect of what you're hoping to achieve. Be firm, but also open-minded and understanding. Put some commonsense rules in place that will help curtail negative behaviors, without being overly aggressive. My kids are far too young at the moment, but the first rule about vaping will be: NO VAPING AT THE HOUSE UNTIL YOU'RE 18. I'd certainly be relieved if they vaped instead of smoked, but there still may be some risks involved and it's my job to protect them.