Vaping can expose infants and children to nicotine, as well as the other heavy metals, formaldehyde, and chemical byproducts of the heating process.
"Just like with cigarettes, babies and infants exposed to vaping can inhale or ingest second hand and third hand vaping of harmful toxins and carcinogens, including polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons, nicotine, organic compounds that may be volatile, and fine particles," says Dr. Rome. "Metal and silicate particles are often in higher concentrations in vaping byproducts than in cigarettes, from the metal coil used in the heating element. Children may cough, wheeze, have more frequent respiratory illnesses, or show signs of nicotine toxicity."
Specifically, when it comes to vaping around babies, you need to be aware that vaping around pregnant women can impact the developing baby.
"We know that nicotine is toxic to developing fetuses," says Dr. Judy. "In labs studies, neonatal mice exposed to aerosol from nicotine containing e-cigarette solutions had decreased weight gain and impaired lung growth compared with mice exposed to room air. These studies raise concern for human in utero exposure and neonatal exposure to nicotine containing devices."
If you have toddlers or young children, they can more easily be exposed to residues of vaping.
"Because children are often in contact with the environment to a much greater degree than adults (children are constantly on the floor and infants often put objects in her mouth or lick objects in the environment exposing them to higher concentrations of these chemicals that land on surfaces more so than adults). We have concerns that these chemicals could cause problems with the developing lungs and developing nervous system," says
J. Taylor Hays, MD
, internist at the Nicotene Dependence Center at the Mayo Clinic.
Young children are also more at risks for accidents involving e-cigarettes.
"More importantly, toddlers and children may ingest the attractive e-liquid refills or swallow a 'mod' or a 'pod'. Pods can look like a little nicotine Lego, which could easily be swallowed quickly by an active toddler," says Dr. Rome. "The amount of poisonings due to unintentional exposure to e-cigarette solutions containing nicotine has increased exponentially in the United States since 2011, with several fatalities.
E- cigarettes have also been reported to cause burns, explosive injuries and chemical injuries.
"The Child Nicotine Poisoning Prevention Act of 2015 now requires containers of e-liquid to come in child-resistant packaging, yet we still get thousands of toxic exposures in children each year. The lithium-ion batteries used in the heating element have also been found to explode, leading to chemical burns and fires," says Dr. Rome.
If a child ingests nicotene, it is considered a poisoning.
"A child can be killed by very small amounts of nicotine: less than half a teaspoon. Calls to poison control centers related to e-cigarette devices have skyrocketed in the last 5 years," says Dr. Judy.
However, since e-cigarettes are relatively new, research has yet to ultimately determine long-term effects of vaping on children.
"Scientific evidence is unclear about what chronic exposure to electronic cigarette vapor will due to children-the concern is that these chemicals could impact the developing nervous system, primarily the brain, as well as the lungs," says Dr. Hays. "However, it will be years before we know the actual impact on the current generation of children who are chronically exposed to electronic cigarette vapor."
How you can protect your children from the effects of vaping
Plain and simple: if you are a parent that vapes, do not do it near your children.
"The best way to protect your children is to never smoke or vape near them," says Dr. Judy. "Never smoke indoors, in your car, or in places that children spend time. Using a 'smoking jacket' that is kept outside/ away from children is another measure to protect children."
However, if you do vape, be sure to practice thorough hygiene to protect your children from any vaping residue.
"If you do vape, shower, change, wash your hands, get all smell/vape particles off you before picking up your child," says Dr. Rome
And seek help so you can quit vaping.
"Attempting to stop all nicotine products is the most beneficial thing you can do for your child. Encouragingly, some studies suggest that there may be potential for e-cigarettes as a smoking cessation tool but more trials are needed to evaluate this claim," says Dr. Ambler. "It is difficult but not impossible to stop the nicotine habit and I strongly encourage all parents to make an appointment with their primary care physician to discuss the treatment options available."