E-cigarettes and Kids: A Harmful Combination

| Posted On Sep 16, 2015 | By:

E-Cig.shutterstock_231369022Despite very successful anti-tobacco campaigns over the past several years that have greatly diminished cigarette use among tweens and teens, e-cigarettes and other Electronic Nicotine Delivery Systems (ENDS) products are rising quickly in popularity. In 2014, survey results found more teens used e-cigarettes than regular cigarettes: 9% of 8th graders, 16% of 10th graders, and 17% of 12th graders used e-cigarettes, compared to 4%, 7%, and 14% for regular cigarettes, respectively.

If you are a parent and either do not know what an e-cigarette is or do not think they are a danger to your children, please read on.

What are e-cigarettes?

E-cigarettes contain a flavored liquid mixed with nicotine and other chemicals. The liquid is heated in the device (usually through a lithium battery like one you’d find in a watch) and releases an aerosol or vapor that is inhaled. The flavors used in the liquid – chocolate, mint, or various fruit flavors – are very appealing to kids, making an e-cigarette more palatable than regular tobacco cigarettes.

It’s sometimes even hard to tell if your child has started to experiment with an ENDS device like an e-cigarette given what they look like. While some are shaped like traditional cigarettes, cigars, or even pipes, other may look like small flashlights, pens or USB drives.

Why are e-cigarettes dangerous?

As a parent, there are several things you should know about e-cigarettes:

In Massachusetts, the Attorney General is pushing for regulation of e-cigarettes and ENDS products so they would be treated in the same way as all other tobacco is treated, regulation which is now in its final stages. Additionally, the Mayor of Boston is concurrently pushing for a ban on all tobacco products at all sporting events.

An American Academy of Pediatrics policy from 2009 was reaffirmed in 2013 and highlights several key overarching principles, including that there is no safe way to use nicotine and there is no safe level or duration of exposure to second hand smoke. So just like you would talk to your teen about tobacco smoking, talk to them about e-cigarettes.

For additional information, speak with your pediatrician or visit the advocacy websites Tobacco Free Mass or Tobacco Free Kids.

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About Dr. Brenda Anders Pring

Dr. Pring is a pediatrician at Harvard Vanguard’s Copley practice. Her advice comes from her experience both as a physician and as a mom. She has 2 children whom she breastfed through her medical residency, working over 80 hours a week with shifts requiring 30 hours away from her baby. Prior to her medical career, Dr. Pring worked in Washington in the federal government and continues to work as an advocate for child health policy. In addition to her pediatric practice, she is also a Lecturer at the Harvard School of Medicine. Dr. Pring is currently welcoming new patients. For more information about becoming a patient, please call (617) 859-5470.


  1. According to http://www.hhs.gov/ash/oah/adolescent-health-topics/substance-abuse/tobacco/trends.html, cigarette use for 10th graders is about 3%, 12th graders 7%, not 16% and 17% as you mentioned.

    Comment by Ed Lipchus on September 24, 2015 at 10:03 am
  2. Hi, Ed. Thanks for your comment. The higher percentages of 16% and 17% you cited from the article are for E-cigarettes alone. You’re right: the use of regular cigarettes is lower, in the single-digit range, and that’s the point – and worry – about E-cigarette use.

    Comment by Harvard Vanguard on October 14, 2015 at 11:17 am

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