What is Vaping?
Vaping is one of the most harmful things you can do to your body. A vape (or electronic cigarette) is a device that heats up liquid to create a vapor that is inhaled. These devices are producing an aerosol byproduct, which is mixed with chemicals to give the user marijuana, nicotine, or other drugs. The user inhales the vapor using a mouthpiece and then expels the vapor through their mouth or nose. While it is true that vapes contain less nicotine than cigarettes, they are still dangerous. For example, one 5% strength JUULpod contains the nicotine strength of an entire pack of cigarettes. Vaping has become more common in teens in recent years, and teens should be educated about its harmful effects.
One of the main substances in vapes is nicotine. Nicotine is extremely harmful to the adolescent brain, because it affects mood, learning, attention, and impulses. Nicotine attacks the synapses or pathways between brain cells. However, nicotine is not the only chemical in e-cigarettes. Other harmful chemicals added to e-cigarettes include carcinogens like diacetyl and metals like tin and lead. These can be inhaled into the lungs and are incredibly dangerous, especially to teens. Additives found in the e – liquids are very dangerous as well. Vitamin E acetate is a common additive in vape liquids. While being safe to eat, it is extremely dangerous to inhale. According to the CDC, Vitamin E acetate is an oily chemical commonly added to THC vaping liquids to dilute or thicken them; the substance has been acknowledged as a potential toxin of concern due to its ability to remain in the lungs for long periods of time, and therefore cause complications in the lungs.
Tetra Hydro Cannabinol (THC)
THC is another common ingredient in vapes. It is found in marijuana and is responsible for creating the ‘high’ feeling. The higher the THC amount, the stronger the effects on the brain—likely contributing to increased rates of marijuana-related emergency room visits. More THC is likely to lead to higher rates of dependency and addiction. These substances are very toxic and make vapes all the more dangerous.
Teens and Vaping Concerns
Let’s talk about the numbers. In 2019, the number of teens that said that they vaped nicotine doubled since 2018. In eighth graders, the number went from 7.5 % to 16.5%. In tenth graders, that number went from 15.8% to 30.7%. Finally, the percentage reported by 12th graders almost doubled, going from 18.8% to 35.3%. In 2020, these doubled numbers stayed about the same, when the annual MTF survey by the University of Michigan was conducted. The rapid rise of nicotine vaping in teens is highly alarming, as it is a very addictive substance. Researchers in 2019 said that an estimated 5 million teens in the United States vape. To put that in perspective, there were an estimated 24 million teens living in the US in 2019. That means that about 20.8% of the teenage population in the country vape or use vape products. This is a very concerning trend right now. The fact that such a large portion of the teenage population is vaping is definitely a health crisis, albeit not as severe as some others, such as the opioid crisis. It still merits worry. Vaping doesn’t just affect teens. In 2020, the federal government recorded 2,602 hospitalizations from vaping and 59 deaths. The majority of hospitalized patients were younger people. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) noticed that many of the patients used vapes from the brand “Dank Vapes”. Vapes can cause serious lung injury, and for that reason, the FDA banned most fruit – flavored vapes. The CDC also pleaded with consumers to stop buying vapes and vape products that contained high levels of THC, as that ingredient was one of the top culprits for lung damage in 2020.
Vaping and Its Effects on the Human Body
Vaping has serious health effects. One 2018 study found that vaping liquids cause higher blood pressure. Ingredients like diacetyl, acetyl propionyl, and acetone have been prominent in vapes and are known to cause respiratory illnesses and damage to white blood cells. Marijuana vapes may not contain nicotine, but their high concentration of THC makes them dangerous as it has been known to cause memory impairments, difficulty problem solving, nausea, and an increased heart rate. These are all things that we certainly don’t want for teens, which makes it all the more difficult to
see that so many teens across the US are vaping. JUUL’s are a popular vape product and have become synonymous with vaping. It contains nicotine and has been known to cause all of the aforementioned side effects.
Vaping increases a person’s chances of getting cancer, heart disease, lung disease, a stroke, diabetes, and chronic pulmonary disease. Toxic chemicals in vapes cause scarring and blockage of the smallest pathways in the lungs. They can also damage the cells that line blood vessels and lymph cells. In the short term, vaping can cause shortness of breath, acid reflux, and nicotine dependence. With vaping, teens get more nicotine than they would get from smoking e – cigarettes. In fact, some e-liquid products contain nearly 50 milligrams of nicotine per milliliter of liquid. That’s more than 400% of the nicotine in a cigarette. Research suggests that nicotine can be just as addictive as harmful drugs like cocaine and heroin. Teens that vape are four times more likely to develop a nicotine addiction. If teens get addicted at a young age, that doesn’t bode well for the rest of their lives, when they have a high chance of getting addicted to a variety of other substances.
With the new vape products coming out that manufacture vapes to look harmless, like a USB or a drive, it can be hard for parents to know if their child is vaping. These types of vapes make it quite easy for teens to hide their vaping and even the amount of smoke exhaled can be less than e – cigarettes. It is important that parents talk with their children about the dangers of vaping and better educate themselves to understand the evolving nature of vapes. They must be able to debunk vaping myths, myths that vaping is safer than smoking and using e – cigarettes. This way, they will be
able to convince their children to not vape, or in the event that the child vapes, stop vaping. It is important that teens and young adults know the dangers of vaping so they will be able to resist peer pressure or go to vaping in times of distress. Vaping is a serious problem in our youth today, and we must all do our part to be cognizant of the dangers and educate others to not fall down that path.
- Vaping Toolkit | Candle, Inc. (candleinc.org)
- Marijuana: What You Need to Know to Help Protect Children, Teens and Young Adults –
- Partnership to End Addiction (drugfree.org)
- Quick Facts on the Risks of E-cigarettes for Kids, Teens, and Young Adults | CDC
- 5 Vaping Facts You Need to Know | Johns Hopkins Medicine
- Can vaping damage your lungs? What we do (and don’t) know – Harvard Health