Teens and Vaping:What Parents Need to Know

There’s an epidemic on the horizon and parents can help stop it. According to the 2019 National Youth Tobacco Study, more than 5 million middle and high school students currently use e-cigarettes. An entire generation is at risk of addiction with serious side effects. Learn more about vaping and use this knowledge in conversations with your teens and other young people about the dangers of this addictive habit.

What is vaping?
Put simply, to vape is to inhale vapor created from a liquid heated up inside a vaping device.

Vaping devices all look different in terms of size, shape and design. Some look like computer flash drives (the popular JUUL e-cigarette is a good example) while others look like a ballpoint pen. All are small, portable and easy to hide in a purse, backpack or pocket.

Batteries inside the vaping device will heat up the liquid which comes in pods or cartridges. The liquid contains a combination of nicotine, flavoring and chemical additives. It also can contain THC, the chemical found in marijuana.

The heated liquid then vaporizes to become an aerosol vapor which is inhaled.

Is vaping addictive?
The pods that are inserted into the vaping device can contain the same amount of nicotine as an entire pack of cigarettes. We know that nicotine is a highly addictive, toxic substance. This means that vaping is not any less harmful than traditional smoking.

Is vaping dangerous to my teen’s health?
The aerosol vapor created by heating nicotine, flavoring and chemical additives exposes teens to a combination of chemicals that isn’t understood just yet – but we know that long-term exposure to chemicals is not safe. There is high potential for this to be a poisonous combination. There are studies currently underway that indicate vaping may lead to dangerous health issues including:

  • Damage to the lungs, heart and brain
  • Cancer
  • Negative effects on brain development which is still happening during adolescence

There are also no standards for vape manufacturers – there is no governmental regulations, no universal standards for product design, ingredients or safety features.

Isn’t it illegal for teens to purchase e-cigarettes?

Yes, it is illegal in all states for people under 18 to purchase e-cigarettes. Some states have passed legislation raising the age to 21. Even with these age limits and other efforts to prevent retailers from selling to teens, vaping rates continue to rise. Four factors could be contributing to this trend:

  1. Without the smell of cigarette smoke and sometimes smokeless e-cigs, many teen believe that vaping is less harmful than smoking
  2. Vaping is a relatively cheap habit; e-cigarettes have a lower per-use cost than traditional cigarettes.
  3. Vape cartridges are often flavored with tastes and smells like apple pie, mint or watermelon that appeal to younger users.
  4. If a teen can’t buy a vape pen or refill pods in the store, they can easily find what they need online. Without a strong safety net to prevent online sales, teens can continue to vape.

For more information on vaping and how to speak with your teen about the issue, visit the CDC web site.  You can also speak with your CPCMG pediatrician about any concerns related to your child.

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