The Teenage Vaping Epidemic

According to the National Institute on Drug Abuse, 26.6% of high school seniors vaped nicotine in the past year. Vaping devices or e-cigarettes are the most commonly used form of nicotine among youth in the U.S. Commonly referred to as vapes, the devices  are appealing to young people because of their convenience, size, and the false narrative that they are safer than cigarettes. 

Does vaping lead to other substance use?

One study found that students who had used vapes or e-cigarettes by the time they started 9th grade were more likely to start smoking cigarettes and other smokable tobacco products within the next year. This finding was repeated in another study suggesting that vaping may actually lead to other nicotine usage in young adults. Recently, the FDA placed restrictions on the purchasing of vapes, prohibiting minors from being about to buy e-cigarettes in stores.

What are the impacts of vaping on the brain and body?

When vaping, nicotine is absorbed from the lungs directly to the bloodstream – which stimulates the release of adrenaline and increases blood pressure, breathing, and heart rate. Like with most substances, nicotine releases dopamine, rewarding the brain and which can lead to dependency. This dopamine output motivates youths to use nicotine again and again – despite the known risks.

Unlike smoking a cigarette, vaping products do not have tobacco – just liquid that is turned to vapor. Most vaping products contain nicotine and other ingredients for flavor. Though this previously was promoted as being a healthier alternative to smoking cigarrettes, the potential danger associated with e-cigarettes and vaping is the variety of chemicals that lungs are exposed to through the vapor. The most common chemicals found in e-cigarettes are Diacetyl (used for flavoring and known to cause damage to passageways in the lungs), Formaldehyde (can cause lung disease and contribute to heart disease), and Acrolein (most commonly used as a weed killer and damaging to the lungs).  One study found that the vapor in e-cigarettes contains carcinogens and toxic chemicals, as well as potentially toxic metal nanoparticles from the device itself. The cartridges that contain the liquid could in hundreds of fruity, appealing flavors like mango or rootbeer – making this device particularly intriguing to young minds. 

Nicotine usage of any kind can affect brain development – which is worrisome given that teenage brains are still in peak developmental stages. Consistent usage of nicotine could lead to decreased attention span and deteriorating learning abilities, as well as problems with impulse control which could result in self-harm or harm to others. 

If there is a young adult in your life consistently using vapes or e-cigarettes, the time to talk is now. With prevention and recovery, intervening sooner is always better. Remind your loved one of the dangers associated with e-cigarettes and vaping, and the potential long-term effects they may not know about.

Misinformation from social media, online sources, and friends at school make potential e-cigarette usage in young adults more prevalent than ever before. Doctors are still learning the depths of the dangers associated with the Vaping Epidemic. Speak up, speak often, and protect the ones you love. Visit