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Ask Dr. Nandi: FDA cracks down on stores selling e-cigarettes to minors

Posted: 3:19 PM, Oct 03, 2018
Updated: 2018-10-03 17:17:38-04

The FDA is cracking down on stores who sell e-cigarette products to minors.  That includes 68 Michigan retailers who were given fines or warnings for illegally selling to kids.  

Question: Many people see e-cigarettes as harmless, so what are the health concerns?

I can see how it’s confusing to people as e-cigarettes are marketed to adults as a way to stop smoking.  So it would seem like common sense to view them as a healthy alternative to real cigarettes.  But what many people don’t realize is that these products usually contain the same addictive drug in cigarettes – and that’s nicotine.  And on top of that, users can breathe in other harmful substances like cancer-causing chemicals, heavy metals like nickel and lead, and a chemical linked to lung disease called diacetyl.  

Question: Are e-cigarette products more harmful to teens?

The CDC says they’re unsafe for kids, teens and young adults.  Now here’s what’s concerning.  Nicotine can negatively affect brain development. It can harm areas that control learning, attention, impulsivity and mood.  And many people don’t know that kid’s brains keep developing until they’re about 25 years old.  There are other issues as well, serious injuries from batteries exploding can occur.  And research has found that kids using e-cigarettes were more than 7 times more likely to start smoking cigarettes.  Also, since nicotine is highly addictive, it can prime the brain’s reward system, increasing the risk for future addiction to other drugs.  

Question: What can we do to prevent teens from using e-cigarettes?

This is quite scary because e-cigarette use has become extremely popular among teens.  Many think it’s cool to vape, especially at school.  But there are key things parents can do. First of all, you should set a good example so if you smoke, it’s a good time to quit.  Also, talk with your child about the harmful effects of not only e-cigarettes but all tobacco products.   Make sure it’s an open dialogue and not a lecture.  You want to be patient and ready to answer questions.  Also, you can encourage teens to learn the facts themselves by visiting the CDC's website at  cdc.gov .  And if you’re uncomfortable with this, you can also ask your family doctor to talk to your child as well.