Why You Should Still Talk To Your Kids About Vaping

October 31, 2019



A conversation with your kids about vaping and electronic cigarettes still needs to take place, according to pediatric pulmonologist Ryan Thomas, MD.1

Thomas is a pediatric pulmonologist with the MSU Pediatric Specialty Clinic who says the main ingredient in e-cigarettes, nicotine, is highly addictive, especially for young people. The developing adolescent brain can be particularly vulnerable to nicotine addiction.

“These devices are rapidly increasing the number of adolescents and adults addicted to nicotine,” said Thomas. “Whether or not a ban goes into effect, that doesn't affect all of the vaping devices already sold and out there.”

The debate over banning e-cigarettes has gone on for months in Michigan. In September, Governor Gretchen Whitmer placed a ban on all flavored e-cigarettes, in what she called a response to a public health emergency among kids using vaping products. The ban began on October 2, making Michigan the first state in the country to have a ban on flavored e-cigarettes. But efforts are underway to reverse the ban, which is why doctors are encouraging parents to talk to their kids about the dangers of vaping.

According to the Center for Disease Control, 1,479 lung injury cases have been reported that were associated with the use of e-cigarette or vaping products. There also have been 33 deaths confirmed, where all have reported a history of using e-cigarette or vaping products. 15% of patients with reported lung injuries are under the age of 18.

The National Institute on Drug Abuse found that e-cigarettes are now the most frequently used tobacco product among adolescents. New companies like JUUL, which makes a popular vape device, was recently named in a series of enforcement actions by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration for marketing product flavors towards children. 

"There seem to be multiple ways vaping is damaging the lungs,” said Thomas. "The common threat is an inflammatory reaction in lungs similar to pneumonia greatly limiting the ability of the body to absorb oxygen. There are reports of persistent lung damage after hospital discharge."

Thomas says many people think e-cigarettes are a safer alternative to regular cigarettes, but that’s simply not true. There is mounting laboratory and clinical evidence vaping is harmful, the only question is to what degree. He adds that many teens had their first exposure to nicotine through vaping products.

“Parents needs to talk to their kids sooner rather than later about the dangers of e-cigarettes,” said Thomas. "Chances are they either know someone who has tried them or they’ve tried them themselves. They need to have an open and honest conversation about this. Kids may think they’re harmless, but it’s our responsibility as parents and physicians to educate them.”


Ryan Thomas, MD, is a pediatric pulmonologist who provides care to the public at MSU Specialty Clinics' Cystic Fibrosis Center and Pediatric Pulmonology Clinic in East Lansing.