Smoking And Teenagers: A Very Harmful Combination


Smoking is on the decline but vaping is on the rise

Mason Gomberg MD

Mason Gomberg MD

The good news is that the rates for adolescents smoking tobacco have dipped slightly. The bad news is that e-cigarette use (vaping) in middle and high school students tripled in 2014. In fact, the 2014 National Youth Tobacco Survey estimated that 2 million high school students (13.4%) used e-cigarettes in 2014 compared to 6.5% in 2013.

According to the CDC, this “very alarming” trend marks the first time that e-cigarette use surpassed traditional cigarettes. Another troubling fact is that overall, tobacco use also increased in 2014.

E-cigarettes and hookahs: very popular and very harmful

Nicotine is a very addictive drug and harmful to a developing brain. The liquid nicotine used in e-cigarettes (and also sold separately) is extremely toxic. There have even been fatal cases when the nicotine liquid has been ingested or absorbed through the skin. We must tell our kids that this “safe alternative” to cigarettes IS NOT SAFE.

An e-cigarette is a battery operated device that turns nicotine and other chemicals into a vapor which is inhaled (vaping) and absorbed into the blood stream. A 2012 study reported that 75% of teens who smoke continue into adulthood. Hookah smoking (through a water pipe) also dramatically increased last year. The number of middle school kids using e-cigarettes and hookahs quadrupled in 2014 (from 1-4%).

Talk to your kids about the dangers of smoking

By using the 1950’s playbook of associating sex, exotic flavors and free sample distributions, marketers are bombarding our kids with an increasing number of ads on TV, movies and in print. Our schools try to combat this media onslaught with DARE programs and educational materials, but it’s our job as parents to reiterate these messages and talk directly with our children and teens about the harm any type of smoking will do to their bodies. Of course, the best example we can set for our children is by our own actions (by not smoking).

As always, the best smoking prevention starts at home through discussion with our children and by setting smart, healthy examples they can follow.

You might also find these pages helpful from our Westchester Health Pediatrics website:

By Mason Gomberg, MD, Pediatric Physician with Westchester Health Pediatrics, member of Northwell Health Physician Partners

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About the Author: ML Ball