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Does Vaping Hurt Teen Athletes?

Teen holding a juul and juul pod in the palm of their hand

E-cigarettes and vaping have become popular among teenagers. When teen athletes vape, it can compromise their future as participants in competitive sports. 

Adolescents who vape may find that it impairs their athletic ability and creates consequences off the playing field. One young hockey player became addicted to Juul e-cigarettes and recently shared his story with NBC. He attributes his vaping to significantly impacting his lung function on the ice, saying “I couldn’t stay on the ice for more than a minute and a half…My lungs couldn’t handle it. I felt like I couldn’t pull enough air into my lungs.” 

When caught using his vape pen at school, he was suspended from the hockey team, which meant no visibility to recruitment scouts. His family and coaches admit that vaping most likely cost him a college career in hockey. 

School leaders recognize that teen vaping is a problem that isn’t going away and are starting to reconsider how they’re approaching the issue. Historically, schools have disciplined students caught using e-cigarettes, including removing the student from sports teams or suspending them from school and other events. Repeated offenders would generally suffer progressively harsher consequences. 

While some of these consequences have been effective or are unavoidable, other school leaders think there are better ways to approach the issue. A high school principal in Connecticut now sees the problem more as an issue of addiction and not just “bad behavior.” He’s urged an approach that focuses on prevention and treatment to help students stop vaping instead. 

The National Education Association has also started to advocate for an approach that shows empathy and respect for students. As the FDA has noted, teen brains are particularly vulnerable to addictive substances like nicotine. School officials who work with potentially addicted teens need to find an anti-vaping strategy that works to keep students and teen athletes healthy.

Statistics of Vaping in Teens

The National Institute on Drug Abuse has gathered these critical statistics that demonstrate just how prevalent teen vaping has become:

  • 30.7% of teens who use e-cigarettes will start smoking within six months
  • 70% of teenagers have exposure to e-cigarette advertising
  • 66% of teenagers think that e-cigarettes contain just flavoring and 13.7% said they didn’t know what was in their e-cigarette

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) explains that using tobacco is a primary cause of preventable disease in the United States. For athletes, this may include performance inhibiting asthma and lung damage, along with damage to their general health. The CDC reported that e-cigarettes represented 11.7% of tobacco use among high school students in 2017. 

The American Lung Association reminds parents and school leaders that no form of tobacco use is safe for teens. Seven public health groups, including pediatricians, filed a lawsuit in 2017 to challenge a decision that allows e-cigarettes and other tobacco-related products to stay on the market without being reviewed by the FDA. In a proactive measure to stop teens from vaping, the city of San Francisco is taking steps to ban e-cigarette use altogether.

If you or a teenager you know needs help with an addiction, Next Generation Village is here for you. Call us any time of the day or night to get answers to your questions and discuss treatment options for a healthier future.


American Lung Association. “E-cigarettes, ‘Vapes‘, and JUULs What Parents Should Know.” N.D. Accessed August 14, 2019.

American Lung Association. “Health Groups File Suit to Expedite FDA Review of E-Cigarettes, Cigars.” March 27, 2018. Accessed August 14, 2019.

Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. “Tobacco Use By Youth is Rising.” February 2019. Accessed August 14, 2019.

Eaton-Robb, Pat. “Discipline or treatment? Schools rethinking vaping response.” Associated Press, May 26, 2019. Accessed August 14, 2019.

Edwards, Erika. “Vaping is hurting teenage athletes, dashing their future in sports.” July 10, 2019. Accessed August 14, 2019.

Flannery, Mary Ellen. “Vaping in Schools: 3 Million Students and Counting.” National Education Association Today, November 14, 2018. Accessed August 14, 2019.

National Institute on Drug Abuse. “Teens and E-cigarettes.” Updated February 2016. Accessed August 14, 2019.

Wang, Teresa W. et al. “Tobacco Product Use Among Middle and High School Students — United States, 2011–2017.” Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report, June 8, 2018. Accessed August 14, 2019.

Raloff, Janet; Mole, Beth. “Vaping may harm the lungs.” Science News for Students, May 29, 2015. Accessed August 15, 2019.

Medical Disclaimer: Next Generation Village aims to improve the quality of life for people struggling with a substance use or mental health disorder with fact-based content about the nature of behavioral health conditions, treatment options, and their related outcomes. We publish material that is researched, cited, edited and reviewed by licensed medical professionals. The information we provide is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. It should not be used in place of the advice of your physician or other qualified healthcare provider.

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