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Published on August 22, 2019

Is Your Teen Vaping? Here's Why They Shouldn't

Teen vaping

E-cigarette use, also called vaping, has become the most popular type of tobacco product for middle and high school students. More than two million U.S. middle and high school students use these devices. In fact, vaping within this age group has increased tenfold in the last eight years.

E-cigarettes, vapes, vape pens, JUUL or mods are all names for the same type of device. It heats a liquid into a vapor that is inhaled by the user. E-cigarettes come in many different shapes and sizes. The most popular e-cigarette is JUUL, with nearly half the market share. One reason for JUUL’s popularity is that it is easily hidden. It looks like a thumb drive and is small enough to fit in a closed fist.


JUUL’s popularity is that it is easily hidden. It looks like a thumb drive and is small enough to fit in a closed fist.

E-cigarette liquid, also called juice, e-juice, vape juice or oil, contains nicotine and other chemicals to give it flavor. Blueberry, banana, cotton candy, chocolate and hazelnut are just a few examples of the hundreds of available flavors. A recent report by the Food and Drug Administration shows that the e-juice flavoring is the biggest appeal for young people to begin vaping. Other reasons include:

  • The misconception that that e-cigarettes are not harmful.
  • Many of their friends use them.
  • They are easy to get.
  • They can be used openly because there is no smoke.

Many companies create e-cigarette liquids, each with their own “blend.” However, there are four hazardous chemicals in nearly all of them:

  1. Nicotine is an addictive stimulant. It causes a rush of adrenaline, a sudden release of glucose and increases blood pressure, heart rate and respiration. Because a young person’s brain is not fully developed, nicotine can also cause long-lasting effects such as mood disorders, a permanent lowering of impulse control as well as harming parts of the brain that control attention and learning.
  2. Diacetyl is a chemical used to provide a butter-like flavoring, most notably in microwave popcorn. This chemical is used in flavoring the juice. Although diacetyl is safe to eat, its vapor has been linked to a lung disease called obliterative bronchiolitis, also known as popcorn lung, which damages the lung’s smallest airways, causing coughing and shortness of breath. There is no cure for popcorn lung.
  3. Volatile organic compounds (VOCs) are most often found in household products, such as cleaners, paints, varnishes, disinfectants, pesticides and stored fuels. Overexposure to these chemicals can cause headaches, nausea, fatigue, dizziness and memory impairment.
  4. Cancer-causing chemicals such as heavy metals, including nickel, tin and lead, formaldehyde and other ultrafine particles are typically found in vape juice.

There are ongoing debates about whether or not vaping is less harmful than cigarettes. Many ex-smokers have used e-cigarettes successfully to break their cigarette addiction.

It is never a good idea to start intentionally inhaling a product for recreation, especially one that is addictive. Talk to your young people about the dangers of vaping and smoking. Let them know about the damage it can do to their respiratory system and developing brain.

About the Author

Mohamed K. Mohamed, MDMohamed K. Mohamed, MD practices Hematology and Oncology At the Cone Health Cancer Center at Wesley Long