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Kids Turning to E-cigarettes, Hookahs for Nicotine Fix

The exciting news is that fewer kids are smoking than in previous years. It’s not a huge drop in children who are lighting up, but any reduction is an improvement....

The exciting news is that fewer kids are smoking than in previous years. It’s not a huge drop in children who are lighting up, but any reduction is an improvement. The not so good news is that more kids are turning to e-cigarettes, cigars and hookahs for their nicotine fix according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s (CDC) analysis of the 2012 National Youth Tobacco Survey.

For some reason (maybe wishful thinking) kids and some adults believe that these three options are healthier than smoking cigarettes, many others suspect it has more to do with cost and popular fads.

E-cigarettes are growing in popularity every day with their own stores popping up in neighbors across the country.. That’s significant because little is known about the long-term effects of smoking e-cigarettes. They may be helpful for people who are intent on quitting smoking, but for those who are just starting to inhale nicotine, they are just as addictive. Studies have shown that kids who smoke e-cigarettes often switch to or include cigarettes in their smoking arsenal. Parents may not be aware that their kids are smoking when they use e-cigarettes. You won’t smell tobacco smoke or find butts lying around. They are easily available on the Internet.

Cigars are just as bad for you as cigarettes. They contain the same addictive qualities and cancer causing ingredients. Hookahs are water pipes with a smoke chamber, a bowl, a pipe and a hose. There are tobacco products that are especially made for hookah pipes. The water does not filter toxins from the tobacco and people tend to take deeper breaths, inhaling more tobacco than cigarette smokers.

Last year, about 5.4% of high school students said they used hookahs at least once a month, up from 4.1% in 2011, and 2.8% tried e-cigarettes, up from 1.5%.

"This report raises a red flag about newer tobacco products," said CDC Director Tom Frieden in announcing the findings. "Cigars and hookah tobacco are smoked tobacco – addictive and deadly. We need effective action to protect our kids from addiction to nicotine."

The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) does regulate cigarettes, but does not have oversight of cigars, hookahs and e-cigarettes. The FDA has said it is looking into expanding oversight into these and other tobacco products. E-cigarettes don't burn tobacco, but users inhale a liquid that contains nicotine, which is derived from the tobacco leaf.

Some of the producers of e-cigarettes say they are willing to limit sales to minors, but also say that that their products don't pose the same health risks as cigarettes and should have different rules. Health groups say more study is needed to assess risks.

The bottom line is that nicotine is addictive. It’s incredibly difficult to quit and it most often comes wrapped in a cigarette. Talk to your child about all of these products, make sure they understand the dangers and that if they never start, they will never become addicted. Ask about peer pressure and if their friends are smoking. For parents to take charge, they have to be educated and willing to dive into areas that are often difficult to navigate but necessary.

Source: Wendy Koch, http://www.usatoday.com/story/news/nation/2013/11/14/teen-smoking-ecigarettes-hookahs/3528829/

 

 

 

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About Sue Hubbard, M.D.

Dr. Sue Hubbard is an award winning pediatrician and medical editor for www.kidsdr.com.  She is a native of Washington, D.C. who travelled south to attend the University of Texas at Austin and never left.Read More

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