UAE Doctors Caution Against Teen Vaping to "Beat School Stress" & Addiction risk

Asma Ahmed - | UAE

Doctors in the UAE are increasingly encountering children as young as 14 in hospital emergency rooms with symptoms such as chronic cough, chest pain, and breathlessness due to e-cigarette smoking.

Health Impacts on Youth

Many young individuals believe that vaping can help them manage the stress of their studies. Dr. Emadeldin Ibrahim, a consultant pulmonologist at Medcare Hospital in Sharjah, shared the case of a 14-year-old boy who started vaping to cope with schoolwork. The boy arrived at the hospital with nonstop wheezing, displaying classic signs of recurrent bronchitis and asthma.

Upon inquiry, he admitted to using e-cigarettes, despite having no family history of asthma and normal lab and radiography results. Although Dr. Emadeldin helped him quit, the boy required three months of medication to manage his asthma.

A new report by the World Health Organization (WHO) reveals that globally, 37 million children aged 13–15 use tobacco. The rate of e-cigarette use among adolescents surpasses that of adults in many countries. Dr. Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, WHO director-general, pointed out that the tobacco industry targets children by repackaging nicotine in appealing forms.

Dr. Mohamed Saifeldin Abdelrahaman Mohamed, a specialist pulmonologist at Thumbay University Hospital, described a 15-year-old boy with a history of asthma who began vaping due to its appealing flavors. The boy experienced lethargy, headaches, dizziness, low oxygen saturation, an increased heart rate, and respiratory distress. He was diagnosed with acute eosinophilic pneumonia, a severe lung inflammation often linked to harmful substance inhalation, including e-cigarettes. After a week of rigorous therapy, the boy’s lung function improved, but he was strictly advised to avoid all forms of smoking and to have regular follow-ups with a pulmonologist.

The WHO report highlights how e-cigarette manufacturers design their products to appeal to children, using toy-like designs, cartoon characters, and sleek, high-tech features in limited editions. Many e-cigarettes are designed for discreet use, resembling everyday items like pens, lipsticks, or watches, allowing users to hide them from teachers and parents and use them in prohibited areas. This tactic aims to capture young customers by making vaping appear fun and harmless.

UAE-based experts note that most young smokers are attracted to e-cigarettes because of their pleasant smells and flavors. This observation aligns with WHO findings, which indicate that 70% of youth e-cigarette users in the US would quit if only tobacco flavors were available. Dr. Mohamed emphasized that the appealing shapes and designs, often resembling toys or tech gadgets, make e-cigarettes particularly enticing to youngsters. Dr. Emadeldin added that unlike traditional cigarettes, e-cigarettes have no distinct odor, making it easier for children to use them covertly. The kid-friendly packaging and flavors make vaping appear fun, enticing even those who have never tried cigarettes.

Health Risks and Prevention

E-cigarette producers market their products as safer alternatives to traditional cigarettes. However, the long-term health effects are not fully understood. WHO reports that e-cigarettes generate toxic substances, some known to cause cancer and others increasing the risk of heart and lung disorders. E-cigarette use can also affect brain development, potentially leading to learning and anxiety disorders in young people. Dr. Mohamed noted that many children start vaping because they perceive it as safer. However, he has seen cases where children coughed up blood and experienced significant lung health impacts. E-cigarettes can cause prolonged coughs and create an environment in the lungs that predisposes users to severe respiratory issues, requiring intensive treatment.

Dr. Emadeldin frequently encounters unexplained chest pains in young children, often linked to e-cigarette use. He advises young patients to quit vaping immediately upon diagnosing such symptoms. E-cigarettes not only increase susceptibility to asthma and bronchitis but have also led to pneumonia and unusual infections resistant to standard antibiotics, requiring prolonged therapy.

Parental and educational roles

Preventing children from smoking requires active involvement from both parents and schools. Dr. Mohamed stressed the importance of open, honest conversations about the health risks of e-cigarettes. Parents should set a positive example by avoiding smoking themselves, and schools should include comprehensive education on the harms of e-cigarettes in their health curriculums. Dr. Emadeldin advised guardians to discuss the short- and long-term risks associated with smoking and vaping with their children, emphasizing the importance of making informed choices.

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Asma Ahmed
Asma Ahmed
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