For years, electronic cigarettes have often been marketed as a safer alternative to conventional cigarettes. This explains why its popularity has increased although it definitely impacts people’s overall health. Thousands of teens across the world are becoming more curious about e-cigarettes as they become addicted to it. Unfortunately, the number of teens trying or experimenting with these is dramatically increasing despite health warnings and concerns.
Teen Vaping Statistics
Experts are becoming extremely worried about the rising numbers of teens using e-cigarettes. Truth Initiative, America's largest nonprofit public health organization dedicated to making tobacco use a thing of the past, reported that e-cigarette use significantly increased among youth in high school and middle school between 2011 and 2017. The 2017 National Youth Tabacco Survey likewise revealed that 11.7% of high school students have used e-cigarettes in the last 30 days, compared to 3.3% in middle school students.
These figures come as no surprise as e-cigarettes are widely available in many parts of the world. A 2019 study showed that 98.7% of all e-cigarette products are found at supermarkets, convenience stores, and similar outlets. What's worse is that these young people don't know these products contain nicotine, which can extremely damage their health. One of the reasons why these e-cigarettes are popular is that, unlike traditional cigarettes, they are available in many different flavors such as cotton candy, bubble gum, cherry, many more. This is why its appeal to children and teens is increasing.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reported several factors that contributed to the increase in e-cigarette use among youth. These include widespread advertising for these products and the lower costs of some of these products relative to conventional cigarettes. Many young people also report using e-cigarettes because they are curious about these new products. At the same time, they believe these products are less harmful than conventional cigarettes.
A 2019 study published in the Journal of the American Medical Association revealed that JUUL, a brand of e-cigarette that is shaped like a USB flash drive, is the preferred brand for 60% of high school e-cigarette users. Most of them used flavored e-cigarettes, and among those who did, nearly 60% favored mint or menthol. According to CBS News, an online site that covers breaking news, videos, and the latest top stories in world news, business, politics, health and pop culture, the findings also revealed that mint was the most popular flavor among Juul users in 10th and 12th grades and the second-most popular among middle-schoolers.
"We have a whole generation of young people who are addicted to these products. Rather than giving up when they can't get their particular flavor, they're switching to a flavor that is more available,” Thomas Ylioja, a smoking cessation expert at National Jewish Health hospital in Denver, said.
Risks to Oral Health
Most people think that e-cigarettes are safe because they don't contain more than 60 cancer-causing chemicals in tobacco smoke. However, it was eventually found out that these products still have harmful chemicals such as nicotine. Nicotine can harm the developing adolescent brain, including the parts that control attention, learning, mood, and impulse control. E-cigarettes are also found to be harmful to the lungs in the long-term.
A recent study published in the journal Science Advances revealed how e-cigarettes can affect a teen’s oral health. The researchers from Ohio State University said that this is the first human study on the effects of e-cigarette exposure in the mouth. According to Inquirer.net, the official news website of the INQUIRER newspaper, the team collected plaque samples taken from under the gums of the participants to analyze the bacteria in this part of the mouth. The participants included 123 people with no signs of oral disease: 25 smokers, 25 non-smokers, 20 e-cigarette users, 25 former tobacco smokers who used e-cigarettes, and 28 people who smoked both tobacco cigarettes and e-cigarettes.
The findings showed that while e-cigarette users didn’t have signs of active disease, their oral bacteria composition was similar to that of people with severe periodontitis. Periodontitis is a severe gum infection that can lead to health problems such as tooth loss. If left untreated, it would be a risk factor for serious conditions such as heart and lung disease. The researchers explained that the heated and pressurized liquids in e-cigarette cartridges make a user’s mouth a welcoming environment for a dangerous combination of microbes.
“If you stop smoking and start vaping instead, you don’t move back toward a healthy bacterial profile but shift up to the vaping profile. Knowing the vaping profile is pathogen-rich, you’re not doing yourself any favors by using vaping to quit smoking,” Purnima Kumar, senior author of the study, said.
Multiple studies backed this new research. A 2018 study, for instance, found that teeth that had been exposed to e-cigarette aerosol had more bacteria than those that hadn’t. Excess bacteria are associated with tooth decay, cavities, and gum diseases. It can cause mouth dryness, which is associated with bad breath, mouth sores, and tooth decay, because some e-cigarette base liquids, particularly propylene glycol, are that harmful.
According to Healthline, an American website and provider of health information, studies of live cells from human gums suggest vaping aerosols can increase inflammation and DNA damage. The researchers said that this can lead cells to lose their power to divide and grow, which can speed up cell aging and result in cell death. This can also result in several oral health issues including periodontal diseases, bone loss, tooth loss, dry mouth, bad breath, and tooth decay.
“We showed that when the vapors from an e-cigarette are burned, it causes cells to release inflammatory proteins, which in turn aggravate stress within cells, resulting in damage that could lead to various oral diseases,” lead author Irfan Rahman, Ph.D., professor of environmental medicine at the University of Rochester School of Medicine and Dentistry in New York, said.
While the cumulative effects of the cell damage caused by an e-cigarette are unclear, the researchers believe their findings are a cause for concern. “Damage to the defensive barrier in the mouth can increase the risk of infection, inflammation, and gum disease. Over the longer term, it may also increase the risk of cancer. This is what we will be investigating in the future,” Dr. Mahmoud Rouabhia from the Faculty of Dental Medicine at Université Laval in Canada said.