Tyra, 16, was a freshman when she tried her first e-cigarette. My friend told me they were harmless‚ he thought they were just water vapor,‚ says the Shiprock, New Mexico, teen. But when she got involved in an anti-tobacco campaign during her sophomore year, she learned that lighting up is never harmless. Every instance of smoking is unhealthy,‚ says Cara Natterson, M.D., a pediatrician in Los Angeles, California. Tyra says: I was horrified at how oblivious I was.‚ Before you pass the hookah, let’s clear the air about these fads of the moment. E-CIGS/VAPING These little gadgets heat up e-juice (usually propylene glycol‚ the stuff in smoke machines‚ plus artificial flavors and nicotine), turning the liquid into an aerosol that you inhale.
Because they don’t burn, they’re often touted as healthier‚ than the alternatives. Here’s why that’s BS: Tests have found the vapor from some e-cigs contains carcinogens and toxic chemicals, like formaldehyde (the stuff that soon-to-bedissected frog in bio class is floating in!), according to the National Institutes of Health. Then there’s the nicotine problem. Nicotine is as addictive as heroin and cocaine, so quitting it is extremely challenging,‚ says Robin Koval, CEO and president of Truth Initiative, a nonprofit dedicated to stopping teen smoking. And using an e-cig is rarely a one-and-done deal.
If you pick one up, you’re eight times more likely to light up a regular cigarette. The bottom line: Even if it doesn’t always puff, you should still pass.
FLAVORED CIGARS Mini cigars can come in cute packaging and flavors (unicorn vomit = an actual available flavor). Here’s what’s not so cute: Their concentration of addictive nicotine and cancer-causing toxins can be even higher than that of cigarettes. And yet, new data show that 64 percent of middle and high school age smokers have used a flavored cigar in the last month.
HOOKAH Is hitting up a lounge your squad’s new Saturday-night activity? You’re not alone: Use of hookahs among middle and high schoolers doubled between 2013 and 2014. But do you know how it really works? The bulb is filled with moist tobacco (also called shisha) and heated with charcoal in a bowl of water. When you suck on the hose, you’re drawing in vaporized smoke. In other words: You’re directly inhaling the fumes from a pile of tobacco. (That’s #nofilter in the worst way possible.)
In fact, in a one-hour hookah session, you can inhale as much smoke as from 100 cigarettes. Smoking it exposes you to many of the same cancer-causing agents as traditional cigarettes,‚ Dr. Natterson says. And like cigs, hookah tobacco contains nicotine, heavy metals, and cancercausing compounds. Even if you’re just hanging out while your besties suck on the pipe, you’re subjecting your bod to harmful secondhand smoke.