Underage smoking has once again become a prevalent issue due to its rise in popularity and health effects on developing young men and women. The primary active ingredient in tobacco products is nicotine, which is a highly addictive and damaging substance — especially to those with growing bodies and developing brains.
Electronic cigarettes or “vapes” use combustible flavored liquids containing varying amounts of pure nicotine into easily inhalable steam that carries nicotine into the bloodstream. These flavors often mimic various candies, sodas, fruit juices, and desserts, broadening their appeal even more to adolescents.
E-Cigarettes come in many shapes and sizes; most have a battery, a heating element, and a place to hold e-cigarette liquid or “e-juice.” They are either charged by a USB port or are disposable and contain a fixed amount of liquid and pre-charge. Popular brands such as JUUL and Smok have a vast array of products that cater to vapers’ every wish and need.
What originated as a smoking cessation aid has quickly become a popular and addictive product in its own right, with e-cigarettes’ popularity in adolescents attributed to their innovative design, fruity flavors, sleek packaging, and their easily concealable nature.
Teens and emerging adults will tell you that vaping is “cool”; it is easy to hide a vape in a shirt pocket or up one’s sleeve. It is easy to take a quick puff between classes without needing matches or having the telltale odor of tobacco as the vapor quickly dissipates in the air, decreasing the risk of being caught.
There is a whole vaping culture online with YouTube videos demonstrating how to hide them in highlighters and even specially designed clothes or backpack straps with hidden compartments for the devices. The YouTube videos also demonstrate how to do tricks with the smoke, like blowing rings.
Hazardous chemicals, such as formaldehyde, form when nicotine liquid is heated to high temperatures. Vaping is also linked to youth becoming more likely to try cigarettes, which can lead to causing more harm.
A study also found that vaping in teens may be linked to increased infection with illnesses like (COVID-19). COVID-19 spreads through repeated hand touching to the mouth and face, which is common when vaping, as is sharing of vaping devices, which can spread COVID-19 if devices are contaminated.
Nicotine is a highly addictive substance with well-known dangers to growing adolescents.
Some dangerous developmental issues caused by teen vaping include:
Nicotine addiction in adolescents can also increase the risk of marijuana addiction. Many vaping devices can also be used to inhale liquid cannabinoids, the active psychoactive ingredient in marijuana. One study demonstrated that teens who use nicotine liquid in e-cigarettes were 3.6 to 4 times more likely to use marijuana in the next two years.
Due to e-cigarettes’ recent invention and introduction to the public, there are a lot of facts still unknown about these products.
These are some other risks to consider:
In 2019, 27.5% of high school students and 10.5% of middle school students said they used e-cigarettes. In 2020, those numbers dropped to 20% of high school students and 5% of middle school students. The preferred brand of e-cigarettes was JUUL, which was used by 25% of high school vapers and 35% of middle school students. Most users acquired their e-cigarettes from a friend (57% of high school students and 59% of middle school students).
Flavored e-cigarettes were preferred by both high school and middle school students (85% of high schoolers and 74% of middle schoolers). Fruit-flavored e-cigarettes were the most popular, followed by mint-flavored e-cigarettes. Also, many students switched to disposable and refillable e-cigarettes, the researchers noted.
Additionally, the FDA asked five major -cigarette manufacturers to put forward plans to reverse the rapidly rising amount of underage vaping or face a potential decision by the FDA to reconsider premarket applications for such products.
“We’re committed to the comprehensive approach to address addiction to nicotine that we announced last year.” Says FDA Commissioner Scott Gottlieb, M.D. about the epidemic, “But at the same time, we see clear signs that youth use of electronic cigarettes has reached an epidemic proportion, and we must adjust certain aspects of our comprehensive strategy to stem this clear and present danger.”
These actions have had an impact on reducing underage vaping – according to results from the latest National Youth Tobacco Survey (NYTS), 1.73 million fewer middle and high school students are using tobacco products in 2020 compared to 2019.
Although the government is cracking down on the sale of e-cigarettes to minors across the country, the usage of these products by minors is still widespread. There are many things you can do to inform your children about the dangers of underage nicotine addiction and actively prevent them from using e-cigarettes or becoming addicted.
The first step in preventing your children from vaping is to keep a watchful eye for signs that they may be using vapes. Unlike cigarettes, which come in standard shapes and have a distinct smell, e-cigarettes are harder to detect.
Some vaping devices look like everyday objects such as USB drives, watches, pens, and markers. Keep an eye out for parts such as refill pods that contain vape juice, atomizers, batteries, and chargers. Most children prefer sweet-flavored vapes. Catching fruit or candy-like smells could be evidence of vaping.
Vaping also makes users’ mouths dry, causing your teen to drink more than usual. If your child is an athlete and starts having trouble breathing, it also could be due to vaping. Other signs of vaping include nosebleeds, unexplained cough, throat clearing, mouth sores, increased irritability, or mood swings.
If you are a parent of a school-aged child, it is likely that your child has been exposed to youth-targeted vaping ads. Your child is also likely to know someone, even a friend, who vapes.
Talk to your child early about vaping and the facts about the harmful chemicals that people breathe in when they vape. You also can share resources that are easy for them to understand. You should also continue to talk to your child about other people who vape at their school and how they feel about it.
Oftentimes an adolescent can become addicted to nicotine without knowing it. They may have tried their friends’ vapes and had repeated and easy access to them and built a habit of asking them for use of them.
If you are worried your child is addicted to nicotine, use the “5 A’s” to assess for dependence on nicotine and plan intervention,
Ask about the person’s smoking status with questions, such as:
Advise the person to stop smoking.
Assess their willingness to quit.
Assist and Arrange for a brief intervention and a follow-up.
Quitting nicotine products and abstaining from future use is not an easy task. The signs of withdrawal are strongest in the first few days after stopping. But they get better over the following days and weeks.
Here are 8 tips and activities to help your child abstain from vape use:
It is also important to find out what the young person likes about engaging in vaping so you can understand their rationale and attempt to correct misperceptions. What makes it attractive?
For many, it is initially to test limits and experiment; for others, it is feeling like an adult, the ability to make a cloud of smoke, or merely enjoying the flavors. For some, it is a way to deal with stress.
Two million American teens are using some form of electronic cigarette. The use of these devices is not a harmless fad; it is highly addictive and damaging. Nearly all tobacco use in the United States begins during the teenage years. Until more research is done, especially on the long-term effects of vaping, it must be stressed that less toxic is still toxic.
Parents must be aware of the practice, its variations, and possible effects on the body and have an important role in vape prevention. If your child or someone you know and love needs help with their nicotine addiction, please feel free to contact our professionals at Wavelength Recovery.
Wavelengths does not treat adolescents under age 18, but we would be happy to put you in contact with a treatment center that does.
1. U.S. Drug and Food Administration (2022, January 10) 2021 Findings on Youth E-Cigarette Use. Retrieved January 26th from https://www.fda.gov/tobacco-products/youth-and-tobacco/results-annual-national-youth-tobacco-survey
2. U.S. Drug and Food Administration (2018, September 11) FDA Takes New Steps. Retrieved January 26th from https://www.fda.gov/news-events/press-announcements/fda-takes-new-steps-address-epidemic-youth-e-cigarette-use-including-historic-action-against-more
3. U.S. Drug and Food Administration (2022, January 13) Get the Latest Facts on Teen Tobacco Use. Retrieved January 26th from https://www.fda.gov/tobacco-products/youth-and-tobacco/get-latest-facts-teen-tobacco-use
4. Digitale, E. (2020, August 11) Vaping Linked to COVID-19 Risk in Teens and Young Adults. Retrieved January 26th from https://med.stanford.edu/news/all-news/2020/08/vaping-linked-to-covid-19-risk-in-teens-and-young-adults.html
5. Selekman, J. (2019, February) Vaping: It’s All a Smokescreen. Retrieved January 26th from http://pediatricnursing.net/interestarticles/14512_Selekman.pdf
6. Center for Disease Control and Prevention (2022, January 14) Quick Facts on the Risks of E-cigarettes for Kids, Teens, and Young Adults. Retrieved January 26th from https://www.cdc.gov/tobacco/basic_information/e-cigarettes/Quick-Facts-on-the-Risks-of-E-cigarettes-for-Kids-Teens-and-Young-Adults.html
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