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Published on August 27, 2019

Do you vape with kids in the car?

Vaping Car Kids

Most parents wouldn’t smoke regular cigarettes with their kids in their car, but a recent study found that a surprising number of adults use e-cigarettes around children at home and in a car.

A paper published in Pediatrics shows that parents who use e-cigarettes were much more likely to permit e-cigarette use inside both homes and cars than parents who smoke only traditional cigarettes. The study found that only 19 percent of e-cigarette users and 21 percent of dual users (people who also smoke traditional cigarettes) had strictly enforced policies banning vaping in both the home and car.

Cape Cod Hospital thoracic surgeon Jeffrey Spillane, MD, FACS, thinks treating e-cigarettes as something different than smoking is a mistake.

“Parents who vape need to protect their children from exposure to e-cigarettes,” he said. “I would recommend that parents who use e-cigarettes not do so in an enclosed space with the kids in a car or in the house.”

Parents using e-cigarettes at home and in cars is “an alarming trend,” the report’s lead author, Jeremy Drehmer of the Massachusetts General Hospital Tobacco Research and Treatment Center, said in a press release. “Pediatric health care providers need to help set the record straight and inform parents that e-cigarette vapor is not safe for children.”

Vaping products create an invisible plume of nicotine and toxic particles, Dr. Spillane said. Breathing them can create inflammation in the lungs, known as bronchiolitis obliterans or popcorn lung.

“The population concern I have is that we’re going to get a lot of fairly severe inflammatory lung disease, and it'll take 10 to 20 years before it really starts showing up,” he said. “But even now the kids who vape are all coughing, and the school nurse is going through cough drops like they never have before.”

Dr. Spillane is concerned by the rapid rise in youth vaping. He mentioned the Monitoring the Future study by University of Michigan, which found that 1.3 million teens started vaping between 2017 and 2018.

“Regulation takes too long to catch up with science. I'm just not interested in seeing another 1.3 million new kids next year find out that, ‘Oh, yeah, it's a problem.’ Because once you're addicted to nicotine, it's a lifelong thing.”

Dr. Spillane sees no difference in vaping and smoking tobacco-filled cigarettes.

“Cigarettes and e-cigarettes are dangerous for the people using them and the people around them,” he said.

Dr. Spillane will speak about the health hazards of vaping at Mashpee Schools Athletic Night on Sept. 4, 2019.