Today’s Tobacco Not a Safe Alternative

E-cigarettes have cancer-causing chemicals.

By Dr. Ruchi Kaushik
General Pediatrics
The Children’s Hospital of San Antonio

Did you know that nine out of ten smokers start smoking before the age of 18? Consequently, tobacco prevention is a pediatrician’s problem to tackle.

Fortunately, over the past several decades, tobacco use has declined, primarily because of regulations put in place to bar the industry from marketing to children and youth.

Enter vaping – the tobacco industry’s latest attempt to hook your child. Overall, tobacco use among teens has declined since the 1970s; however, a recent study published in Pediatrics revealed that 13.7 percent of 12th grade students in Southern California currently smoke cigarettes or e-cigarettes compared to 9.9 percent in 2004 (before e-cigarettes were available).

E-cigarettes are a type of electronic smoking device available in a variety of colors, sizes, and flavors (eg. vanilla, chocolate) and are advertised to be a “safer” form of tobacco.

But the reality is that e-cigarettes have cancer-causing chemicals, including nicotine. Moreover, teens who use e-cigarettes are six times more likely to start using traditional cigarettes when entering adulthood.

Toddlers are often attracted to the various colors of the liquid nicotine refills, but liquid nicotine is poisonous, even if spilled on the skin of a young child, a one-year-old child died from liquid nicotine poisoning in December 2014.

Fortunately, the FDA now regulates the manufacture, import, packaging, labeling, advertising, promotion, sale and distribution of all electronic nicotine delivery systems (vaporizers, vape pens, hookah pens, e-cigarettes, e-pipes, etc.). This means that only adults (18 years of age and over) can buy them; child-resistant packaging is now required; and products and advertisements must bear a warning label: “This product contains nicotine. Nicotine is an addictive chemical.”

Despite the new regulations, parents must inform themselves of the adverse health effects of vaping. They are not the “safer” cigarette, they often lead to use of traditional cigarettes, and their liquid is lethal for young children. For more information, visit

If you have questions about the dangers of vaping around your children, talk to your child’s pediatrician. If you need a pediatrician, please visit this page.