The Teen Vaping Epidemic: What Parents Need to Know

E-cigarettes or vapes are all the rage nowadays, especially for the youth. In fact, e-cigarettes/vapes have been the most commonly used tobacco product among teens since 2014. 

As the number of young vapers gets higher, the adverse health effects and hospitalizations become more noticeable too. 

Teen Vaping in Numbers

There has been a consistent increase in the use of e-cigarettes over the years.

According to the latest Centers for Disease Control report, approximately 1 out of 7 high schoolers (14.1%) use e-cigarettes. Younger kids are using vape products as well; with 1 in 30 middle schoolers (3.3%) reporting vape usage in 2022.

Why Teens Are Hooked on Vaping

Many teens use vape pens because of their flavor. Vape companies offer various e-cig liquid flavors; the most popular being ‘fruity’ (smoked by 69.1% of teen vape users.) Other ‘appealing’ flavors include ‘candies/desserts’ (38.3% of users), ‘mint’ (29.4%), and ‘menthol’ (26.6%.)

Another factor that attracts teens to vaping is the size/shape of the e-cig. They are manufactured to look like pens, USB devices, and inhalers, so it is easier for them to carry the device around undetected.

Many e-cigarettes are inexpensive, too - with pens costing around $5.

Apart from flavor, design, and price, other teens vape due to the following reasons:

  • Curiosity/experimentation
  • Peer pressure
  • Stress/anxiety

The Dangers of an E-Cigarette

A vape pen is a device that heats the liquid to produce an aerosol. Contrary to popular belief, this aerosol is not plain water vapor. It contains harmful ingredients, such as:

1. Nicotine

Nicotine is an addictive substance present in 99% of vapes in the US. Even e-cigarette companies that advertise their products as containing zero nicotine, still contain nicotine.

Prolonged nicotine use can lead to lung and heart disease, among many other conditions. But these are not the only things that should raise concern amongst many parents and guardians.

Nicotine can also harm the adolescent brain, which continues to develop until age 25.

As a result, teens who vape nicotine, may suffer from learning, attention, mood, and impulse control issues. 

Just like adults, teens can get addicted to nicotine vape. After all, it contains higher amounts of nicotine compared to traditional cigarettes. 

In fact, one Juul pod contains the same amount of nicotine as 20 cigarette packs.

If nicotine use us abruptly stopped, users can develop withdrawal symptoms, such as: 

  • Nicotine cravings 
  • Restlessness
  • Anxiety
  • Concentration problems
  • Sleeping issues

2. Vitamin E Acetate

Vitamin E Acetate has been linked with EVALI, a condition where vaping substances (specifically Vitamin E acetate) destroy the lungs.

According to the CDC, 2,807 have been hospitalized for EVALI, and 68 have died.

3. Diacetyl

Diacetyl, a compound used in most food flavorings, has been associated with irreversible lung disease. Diacetyl can injure and constrict the lung airways, thus leading to breathing difficulties.

4. Heavy Metals

E-cigarette liquids also contain tin, lead, nickel, and metals that can cause lung disease and cancer.

5. Marijuana

Nicotine is not the only e-cig substance that teens vape. Recently, many have resorted to vaping marijuana as well. 

As with conventional use, the long-term effects of cannabis vaping can lead to:

  • IQ loss
  • Mental health issues such as anxiety and/or depression
  • Reduced physical performance

6. Potential Explosions

As manufacturers work to improve their sales, many have resorted to using sub-par materials for their batteries. These defective parts can explode and ultimately lead to injury and disfigurement.

What the Government is Doing About Teen Vaping

The US Government is taking staunch actions against youth vaping, such as preventing companies from selling ‘appealing’ flavored non-disposable e-cigs to teens. This has led many states to ban the sale of JUUL, one of the biggest vape suppliers in the US.

That said, sellers are smart. They set their sights on disposable vapes, which are not included in the ruling. 

As expected, disposable vapes continue to catch the eye of many teenagers.

55.3% of teen vapers nowadays use disposable e-cigs. Like the non-disposable ones, they are cheap and come in various flavors and unique designs. 

What You Can Do

Teens who vape are at a higher risk of developing lung disease, mental health issues (such as depression), and drug addiction in the future. Early detection is key.


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