The Teenage Vaping Epidemic: What You Need To Know

Updated: Nov 18, 2019

By: Catherine Buren


Vaping was first introduced for the purpose of helping cigarette smokers to quit by slowly weaning them off of the tobacco products with a “safer” alternative. Now, it’s being used by teens for recreational uses- at home, parties, and even schools. Is the smoking alternative really a safer bet than cigarettes? Ask the FDA.

A helpful pamphlet designed for parents to determine whether their children are experimenting with vaping products. (Source: https://www.beaumont.org/health-wellness/blogs/dangers-of-vaping)


The Background

Vaping is “the act of inhaling and exhaling the vapor produced by the heated nicotine liquid of an electronic cigarette, vape pen, or personal vaporizer” {1}.

What began as a smoking cessation aid has quickly become a popular and highly addictive product with a new target market: teenagers. The draw for teenagers is similar to that of “social smoking”- it may look cool, and it may seem fun to do with their friends, but they don’t know what’s in it. Ultrafine particles that can be inhaled deep into the lungs; flavorants such as diacetyl, a chemical linked to serious lung disease; volatile organic compounds; heavy metals, such as nickel, tin, and lead… need I list more? The recent rise in popularity can be attributed to packaging and advertising. Teens are after innovation and whatever is new and thus are attracted by the sleek design of many vaping products and ease of use.

Vaping products are now targeting a younger audience with colorful, eye-catching designs with flavors including popular candies. (Source:nbcnews.com/health/vaping/vitamin-e-now-focus-investigation-some-vaping-illnesses-n1050361)


The Research

Although vaping companies vehemently deny that they are marketing to young people, many note such features in their advertising as “youthful images and colors, animation, actors who appear to be under 21, and suggestions that vaping makes you happier and improves your social status” {2}. Because of these high nicotine levels, vaping is extremely addictive, and teens are already more susceptible to addiction than adults because their brains are still developing, which makes them more likely to habituate to using drugs and alcohol. Vaping initially increases alertness and attention, but then teens experience a decrease in attention span, due to its addictive properties.


E-cigarettes and like devices contain carcinogenic compounds, and a recent study found significantly increased levels of carcinogens in the urine of teens who vape. A recent study also found that vaping does, in fact, cause lung irritation akin to that seen in smokers and people with lung disease and causes damage to vital immune system cells.

Vaping is clearly an epidemic in today’s teenage generation and it must be confronted to save the lives of those who are our future {1}.


Sources:

{1} “Teen Vaping: What You Need to Know”, Katherine Martinelli, Child Mind Institute https://childmind.org/article/teen-vaping-what-you-need-to-know/

{2} “5 Vaping Facts You Need to Know”, Michael Joseph Blaha, M.D., M.P.H., Hopkins Medicine (hopkinsmedicine.org)

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Since June 2018

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The Scientific Teen 2020.