Smoking vs. Vaping: Understanding the Impact on Kids

Smoking and vaping in kids are concerning public health issues. Prevention, education, and legal restrictions are essential to protect kids from these health hazards and promote smoke-free lifestyles. Must Read!
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I’m a mom to 2 teenagers and I am dumbstruck every time they tell me how many of their friends are vaping and addicted to it.

About 20 million children of ages 10–14 are estimated to be tobacco-addicted according to a survey done by the National Sample Survey Organization of the Indian Government. To this astounding figure, about 5500 new users are added every day, making two million new users every year

The best protection against addiction, illnesses and injuries is never to vape or smoke in the first place. However, children entering their teenage years are experimental, curious and vulnerable to peer pressure and online promotions.

Amongst today’s generation of kids, there’s a new trend that has taken the tween and teen world by storm – vaping. While the ongoing debate weighs the safety of vaping against traditional smoking, there’s a critical aspect that often goes unnoticed: the profound influence of these habits on our children.

Despite being banned in India, VAPE is the hottest new accessory being normalised by teens. If you’re a parent you need to be worried.

Is Vaping Better Than Smoking?

Both e-cigarettes and cigarettes contain nicotine, but how it gets to the lungs is the difference between the two.

Sold as a safer alternative to smoking, it is not uncommon to see college students and young teens heavily into vaping because they feel it’s a ‘socially’ acceptable way to get the fix.

Unlike vaping, which is relatively new, there are years of research to fully back up claims that smoking is damaging to human health. Commonly, smoking is thought to be more harmful because the product is being burnt and smoke inhaled into the lungs.

However, E-cigarettes produce an aerosol by heating a liquid that usually contains nicotine—the addictive drug in regular cigarettes, cigars, and other tobacco products—flavourings, and other chemicals that help to make the aerosol. Users inhale this aerosol into their lungs. Bystanders can also breathe in this aerosol when the user exhales into the air.

BBC News reported that a 12-year-old girl went into a coma after being addicted to vaping. Her mom said

Her lungs will never work fully again.. there are no words to describe when you think your child is going to die

And that’s the main difference between vaping and smoking cigarettes: Vapes contain nicotine, but not tobacco.

Cynthia Ambler, M.D., a paediatrician at Northwestern Medicine, USA says

The chemicals found in vape “smoke” are different from those found in cigarette smoke. “E-cigarettes commonly contain propylene glycol and glycerol. These substances can decompose to form formaldehyde and acetaldehyde which are known carcinogens. They can also contain metals such as lead, nickel, and arsenic, which are known to be harmful to the human body.

Doctors & health practitioners across the board are of the same opinion that adolescents who use e-cigarettes are twice as likely to suffer from respiratory symptoms such as persistent cough, bronchitis, and other challenges than a child who doesn’t use. They also agree that it is easier to get addicted to vaping due to the higher concentrations of nicotine in vape products.

 Dr. Krishna Prasad, Consultant – Paediatrician, Motherhood Hospitals, Bangalore says that

 Smoking is a leading cause of various cancers, including lung, throat, and mouth. Kids who smoke are at increased risk in the long term. Smoking is responsible for approximately 90% of lung cancer deaths and 80% of chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) deaths and significantly increases the risk of conditions like heart disease and stroke

Why Are Kids Smoking or Vaping?

Some of the reasons why your child may try e-cigarettes or cigarettes include:

  • peer bonding and the desire to fit in with friends
  • copying parents or older brothers or sisters who smoke
  • the wish to assert their growing independence
  • the desire to appear more grown up and sophisticated
  • curiosity
  • flavours (e-cigarettes)
  • to imitate actors, models or influencers in movies, video games or social media.

Did you know that a person’s brain is still developing up to the age of about 25 years old? Smoking or vaping while their body and brain is still growing can have long-lasting effects.

Dr Ganta Rami Reddy, Consultant – Neonatology & Paediatrics, CARE Hospitals, HITEC City, Hyderabad told us that

The adolescent brain is still developing, and exposure to nicotine can harm the developing brain, affecting attention, learning, and impulse control…It’s crucial to educate children and teens about the dangers of both smoking and vaping and implement policies and programs aimed at preventing and reducing tobacco and nicotine use in this vulnerable population. Parents, educators, and healthcare professionals are key in prevention and intervention efforts.

Secondhand Vapour Isn’t Safe Either

It’s a myth that secondhand emissions from e-cigarettes are harmless. Many people think that secondhand vapour is just water, but this couldn’t be farther from the truth. The vapour emitted when someone exhales contains a variety of dangerous substances, which may include:

  • Nicotine
  • Ultrafine particles
  • Diacetyl
  • Benzene (a chemical found in car exhaust)

Although secondhand vapour may not affect the lungs the same way as vaping, it is better to avoid it.

The Verdict

As a parent, educate your child about the effects of this addiction in the short term & long term. I keep showing my kids videos and talks of experts or addicts who have suffered and are in their age category. They need to understand and fear this stick – whether it’s a vape or a cigarette.

Integrative & Lifestyle Coach Luke Coutinho shared on his social media

What are your thoughts? We want to know. Talk to us in the comments below.

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