Cigarettes have always been an issue for the parents of teens, but modern technology has brought a new threat — teen vaping. Vaping devices contain just as much nicotine as a pack of cigarettes (if not more). They produce no smell or smoke; the vapor dissipates quickly, and they can be disguised in an array of familiar household objects.
This makes it hard for parents to keep their kids safe and healthy. If you want to know the facts about kids and teens vaping — and why vaping is bad for teens — we break down some of the risks and truths about the practice.
What Is Vaping?
A vape or vaping device, otherwise known as an e-cigarette, is a device that uses heat to vaporize a liquid so that it can be inhaled. The vaping liquid (e-liquid) typically contains nicotine, but other substances like CBD and THC can be added to the cartridge.
There are many names for electronic nicotine delivery systems (ENDS). These can include vapes, vape pens, vape tanks, vape mods, e-cigarettes, e-cigs, e-hookahs, e-pipes, cigalikes, and vaporizers.
Quick Stats About Kids & Teens Vaping
- Anyone can become addicted to nicotine after only one or two uses.
- As of 2022, one in 10 middle and high school students use vapes
- This equates to approximately 2.5 million kids.
- 22.5% of high school students report doing it daily.
- JUUL is the most popular vape among teens.
- These vapes use nicotine salts, which provide more nicotine to the user than alternative vaping products.
- Nicotine salts do not produce visible emissions that you would normally expect to see with a vape.
- About two-thirds of JUUL users aged 15-24 do not know that JUUL always contains nicotine.
- Though they are not always designed this way, users can refill e-liquid pods with THC and CBD oils.
- Zero-nicotine e-liquid can still cause damage to the respiratory tract and blood vessels.
What Is the Difference Between a Vape and a Cigarette?
The main difference between a vape and a cigarette is the way in which the nicotine is delivered to the person using it. A cigarette burns the nicotine source whereas the vape heats it. While vaping has been shown to have less harmful effects, it is still considered detrimental to the health of the user.
Why Is Vaping Bad for Teens?
There are several important reasons why vaping can be so harmful to teens.
A person's brain isn't fully developed until the age of 25. This means that everything you introduce to it prior to this mark can play a detrimental role in its ability to function normally. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention note that "using nicotine in adolescence can harm the parts of the brain that control attention, learning, mood, and impulse control" and "using nicotine in adolescence may also increase risk for future addiction to other drugs."
Risk of Cancer and Irreversible Lung Damage
The American Lung Association goes on to note that vapes contain dangerous chemicals that can cause cancer and irreversible lung damage. In the short term, "e-cigarette aerosol can irritate your lungs, throat, and eyes. It can also make it more likely that you’ll catch colds or get the flu." Both the long-term and immediate consequences of vaping can cause serious harm to a teen's health.
Additional Risks Associated With Vaping Marijuana
Additionally, researchers with Johns Hopkins Medicine have found that "compared with smoking cannabis, vaping it increased the rate of short-term anxiety, paranoia, memory loss, and distraction when doses were the same." These symptoms were found in infrequent cannabis users. Since the teenage years are typically a time for experimentation, parents could expect to see these types of side effects if their teens are vaping marijuana.
Why Is Vaping Appealing to Kids and Teens?
Just like cigarettes, nicotine from a vape causes the brain to release dopamine, a feel-good hormone in our bodies, which provides an almost instant, but temporary, mood boost.
Unlike cigarettes, manufacturers target kids and teens by adding enticing flavors like cool mint, strawberry kiwi, blue raspberry, bubblegum, chocolate, and vanilla, to name a few. These attributes, along with peer pressure and social media influence, make these devices very enticing to kids and teens.
Inside Facts That Parents Need to Know About Teens Vaping
It can be hard to tell if and when your teens are vaping. This information can help you to better deduce if your children are engaging in this type of activity.
There is a lot of terminology surrounding e-cigarettes, which can make it hard for parents to recognize what their kids are talking about and when they should be concerned. We break down some of the less obvious vape terminology so that you can better monitor them in real-life and on social media.
- ADV: This stands for "all-day vape." It refers to a vape juice that the user particularly prefers and would like to enjoy all the time.
- Cloud Chasing: Someone looking to produce large clouds of vapor when they vape.
- Fiend: Someone who regularly seeks nicotine.
- Greening, Greening Out, or Green Out: This refers to someone who has taken a large hit of THC and is experiencing dizziness, anxiety, nausea, or vomiting.
- Squonk or Squonker: Someone who uses a vape mod that contains a bottle called a squonk. This is squeezed to deliver the e-liquid.
What Else Can You Put in a Vape?
Vape juice typically contains a combination of nicotine, Propylene Glycol (PG), Vegetable Glycerin (VG), and flavorings. However, the user has the option of filling their device with other liquids and oils, including:
- CBD oil
- THC oil
- Nicotine salts (which provide a higher nicotine strength than traditional vape juice)
- Herbal extracts
Vaping cannabis does not produce a smell or smoke. This can make it hard for parents to tell what their child has in their e-cigarette. One of the best ways to determine if it is THC is to look for the symptoms of smoking cannabis — "bloodshot eyes, dry mouth, and thirst, increased appetite and shifts in behavior and mood."
Vapes Can Be Disguised as Common Household Items
This is probably the most frustrating part of vapes. Unlike cigarettes, they can hide in plain sight. If you suspect that your kids or teens are vaping, but can't find an e-cigarette, it could be camouflaged. Knowing what vapes look like and the ways manufacturers are producing them can help.
Manufacturers now make vapes that look like:
- USB drives
- Phone cases
- Smart watches
- Asthma inhalers
- Lipstick tubes
Vapes are also being built into:
- Sweatshirts or jackets (the vape is built in the hood drawstring)
- Backpacks (the vape comes out of the shoulder strap)
Prevent Teen Vaping by Being Proactive
Teens are going to experiment, but by talking about the dangers of vaping and being a good role model to your kids, you can help them choose to say no to trying nicotine products. It is also important for parents to express the importance of making decisions for yourself. Peer pressure can make it hard for a teen to feel comfortable saying no. Helping to build your kid's confidence can make it easier for them to make their own decisions.