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Professionals concerned about children and young people vaping and using e-cigarettes

The proportion of children and young people who vape, i.e., use e-cigarettes, has grown significantly. Just like regular tobacco, e-cigarettes also contain substances that are harmful to health.

– In my work as a primary school nurse, I have noticed an increase in the number of children using and experimenting with e-cigarettes. As recently as last year, e-cigarettes were almost never discussed, but now this autumn, there are pupils who have tried them. The children seem to know a lot about them, says school nurse Ilona Kangas.

What is an Electronic Cigarette (vape)?

Electronic Cigarettes or vapes and other products that vaporise liquid are devices made of plastic and metal that use a battery to heat up a liquid until it vaporises, that is, to become an aerosol. The vapor is inhaled into the lungs in the same way as when smoking regular cigarettes.

E-cigarettes can be very different in appearance, but they work in the same way.

– As a professionally trained healthcare provider, I would like to tell parents that e-cigarettes can look like lip balm or a case for wireless headphones, i.e., e-cigarettes are difficult to recognise. In addition, children and young people can easily order them from other young people through social media, for example, via Snapchat or Telegram, emphasises Kangas.

E-cigarettes can look like lip balm or a case for wireless headphones, i.e., e-cigarettes are difficult to recognise.

Ilona Kangas

E-cigarettes do not contain tobacco and there is no combustion reaction when using them, as when smoking a regular cigarette. The basic ingredients of e-cigarette liquid, or so-called base liquids, are vegetable glycerol and propylene glycol. Liquids can be nicotine-free or contain nicotine.

E-cigarettes are dangerous to health – talk to your child about it!

– The most worrying thing about e-cigarettes is that they contain substances that are dangerous to health, and we still do not have long-term research information on all the potential side effects. The nicotine strength and amount of nicotine in e-cigarettes vary considerably. If the strength and amount of nicotine is high, addiction to nicotine develops very quickly and there can be a risk of a nicotine overdose. Unfortunately, there have also been cases where e-cigarettes have been bought on credit and then the debt has been collected in inappropriate ways, says school doctor Tiina Ekholm.

– I encourage parents to talk openly with children and young people about drugs and the dangers associated with their use. This way we can intervene at an early stage, urges Ekholm.

The harmful effects of e-cigarettes include the following:

  • Anyone who uses e-cigarettes, whose liquid contains nicotine, is exposed to the side effects of nicotine and becomes addicted.
  • When an e-cigarette is heated, cell-damaging oxygen radicals are formed, in the same way as with regular cigarettes. This, for example, causes an inflammatory reaction in lung cells and increases the risk of diseases in and around the mouth.
  • Glyoxal and methyloxal contained in e-cigarettes are known to be harmful to the lungs.
  • When heated, propylene glycol forms propylene oxide, which the International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC) has classified as a carcinogenic substance.
  • Several metals, such as copper, zinc and lead, have been found in e-cigarette liquids and the resulting aerosol.
  • The use of e-cigarettes can increase the risk of cardiovascular disease.
  • According to surveys, the most common symptoms of using e-cigarettes are irritation in the mouth and throat, headache, cough, mucus formation, reduced stress tolerance and nausea.

Reliable information about e-cigarettes can be found at: