Vaping in Teens

What you need to know and tips on how to talk to your teens

Mar­ket­ed as a healthy alter­na­tive to smok­ing, vap­ing is a rel­a­tive­ly new trend that is grow­ing at a fast rate. In Sep­tem­ber of 2019, the Cen­ters for Dis­ease Con­trol (CDC) and the U.S. Food and Drug Admin­is­tra­tion (FDA) issued a pub­lic warn­ing, urg­ing peo­ple not to use e‑cigarettes. Pedi­a­tri­cian, Dr. Kevin Ger­mi­no, shares facts, risks and tips on talk­ing to your teens about the dan­gers of vaping.

What is Vaping?

Vap­ing is the use of an elec­tron­ic cig­a­rette, also known as an e‑cigarette, or oth­er device to inhale clouds of vapor.

The Device

Vap­ing devices are avail­able in two main styles known as MODs and PODs. While they deliv­er the same results, there are notable dif­fer­ences between the two systems.

Mechan­i­cal Mod­i­fied Nico­tine Deliv­ery Sys­tem (MOD)
A MOD vape is a hand­held, bat­tery-pow­ered device with a liq­uid reser­voir or tank, a heat­ing ele­ment, mouth­piece and pow­er but­ton. A liq­uid known as solu­tion, juice or e‑juice, are placed into the reser­voir and heat­ed, turn­ing the liq­uid into vapor that is inhaled by the user.

Portable Deliv­ery Sys­tem (POD)
A POD vape is sys­tem that does not have a liq­uid reser­voir tank and heat­ing ele­ment. Instead, this style of vape is used with a pre-filled pod, a con­tain­er filled with the solu­tion, which is insert­ed into the body of the device. Pods are acti­vat­ed by the user inhal­ing from the mouthpiece.

The Dan­gers

There are sev­er­al con­cerns around the ris­ing trend. Although there are risks asso­ci­at­ed with the vap­ing device itself and the renor­mal­iza­tion of smok­ing, the main con­cern with nation­al health agen­cies and health­care providers lies in the vap­ing solution.

Nico­tine and Oth­er Poten­tial­ly Harm­ful Chem­i­cals
Although many prod­ucts state that they are nico­tine-free, traces of nico­tine have been found in sev­er­al vap­ing solu­tions. All of the PODs sold by the most well-known brand of vap­ing devices on the mar­ket con­tain nico­tine, some con­tain­ing as much as 20mg/​ml.

In addi­tion to nico­tine, at least 41 oth­er chem­i­cals have been iden­ti­fied in e‑cigarettes, and expo­sure to at least 22 of these chem­i­cals is con­sid­ered poten­tial­ly harmful.

Poten­tial­ly Harm­ful Chemicals

  • Acetalde­hyde
  • Ace­tone
  • Acrolein
  • Ben­zene
  • Cad­mi­um
  • Chromi­um
  • Diacetyl
  • Dieth­yl­ene Glycol
  • Formalde­hyde
  • Iso­prene
  • Lead
  • Nick­el
  • Nico­tine
  • N‑Nitrosonornicotine
  • O‑Methylbenzaldehyde
  • Phe­nol
  • Ply­cyclic Aro­mat­ic Hydrocarbons
  • Propanol
  • Propy­lene Glycol
  • Tin
  • Toluene
  • Vit­a­min E acetate

Unreg­u­lat­ed qual­i­ty con­trol
There are no reg­u­la­tions in place around the qual­i­ty con­trol of vap­ing devices. Poor­ly man­u­fac­tured devices have led to mal­func­tions, such as explo­sions, caus­ing burns and oth­er seri­ous injuries.

Renor­mal­iza­tion of Smok­ing
Pri­or to vap­ing hit­ting the U.S. mar­ket, smok­ing in the teen pop­u­la­tions was steadi­ly declin­ing. The trend is grow­ing rapid­ly and is linked to increased cig­a­rette usage. Thir­ty point sev­en per­cent of e‑cigarette smok­ers begin smok­ing tra­di­tion­al cig­a­rettes with­in six months. Forty per­cent of teen smok­ers did not smoke pri­or to vaping.

Teens: The Tar­get Consumer

Vap­ing and tobac­co com­pa­nies tar­get teens. Adver­tis­ers mar­ket direct­ly to teens through tar­get­ed ads in stores and on tele­vi­sion, as well as on social media and the inter­net. In 2013, there were more than 30,000 YouTube videos relat­ed to e‑cigarettes with over 100,000,000 views. Addi­tion­al­ly, to date, there are over 7,000 fla­vors on the mar­ket such as straw­ber­ry, birth­day cake and chocolate.

Myth vs. Fact

Myth: Vap­ing isn’t addictive.

Fact: The use of nico­tine-based vap­ing is high­est in mid­dle and high school aged teens. Nico­tine is a high­ly addic­tive drug, putting the user at risk of seri­ous health conditions.

Myth: Vap­ing is safer than smok­ing tra­di­tion­al cigarettes.

Fact: Although there are less chem­i­cals in vap­ing liq­uids, users are still exposed to at least 42 poten­tial­ly harm­ful chem­i­cals and carcinogens.

Myth: Vap­ing is a smok­ing ces­sa­tion aid.

Fact: Vap­ing is more com­mon in teens than adults and 30.7 per­cent of e‑cigarette smok­ers begin smok­ing tra­di­tion­al cig­a­rettes with­in six months. Nine­ty per­cent of smok­ers start­ed smok­ing before the age of 19 and 40 per­cent of those did not smoke pri­or to vaping.

The Risks

Vap­ing is rec­og­nized as a pub­lic health threat. The CDC reports that there were 36 mil­lion teen users in 2018 and that 4.9 per­cent of mid­dle school­ers and 20.8 per­cent of high school­ers had vaped in the last 30 days.

Nico­tine Expo­sure and Brain Devel­op­ment
Brain devel­op­ment con­tin­ues until age 25. Nico­tine affects brain cir­cuits, which are respon­si­ble for atten­tion, impulse con­trol and learn­ing. The drug also increas­es the risk for med­ical dis­or­ders such as can­cer, heart dis­ease, stroke and res­pi­ra­to­ry disease.

Lung Injury and Death
The CDC pro­vides a week­ly update to the total num­ber of hos­pi­tal­iza­tion cas­es asso­ci­at­ed with e‑cigarettes. As of Novem­ber 5, 2019, approx­i­mate­ly 2,051 cas­es of lung injuries have been report­ed as well as 39 deaths. 

What Can You Do

Pre­ven­tion is key to slow­ing the growth of vap­ing in teens. Talk­ing to your teens is the first step toward intro­duc­ing them to the dan­gers of vap­ing. The CDC offers tips on ways to start the con­ver­sa­tion, such as:

Arm Your­self with Facts
Do your home­work and research cred­i­ble sites for facts, sta­tis­tics and oth­er information.

Start the Con­ver­sa­tion
Keep in mind that your goal is to encour­age a con­ver­sa­tion. Find­ing the right moment can go a long way in sup­port­ing an open dia­logue. Be pre­pared to answer their ques­tions and to share expe­ri­ences you may have had.

Ask your teens ques­tions, such as what have they heard about vap­ing or if their friends have tried it, and then let them talk. Aim to hear them with­out judge­ment and under­stand that the con­ver­sa­tion may take place over an extend­ed peri­od of time.

Talk to your teens about the dan­gers of vap­ing to empow­er them with knowl­edge and facts. Your pedi­a­tri­cian can pro­vide tips on how to start the con­ver­sa­tion and pro­vide your teen with facts about the risks of vap­ing. To sched­ule an appoint­ment with a pedi­a­tri­cian, please call 1.888.MY.DMG.DR (1.888.693.6437) or sched­ule an appoint­ment online.