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Secondhand E-Cig Vapor Impact Teens Who Don’t Vape

stylish girl smoking an e-cigarette as she is walking through the city  

The dangers of vaping are not limited to people who vape. People nearby can also be exposed to secondhand aerosol from vaping devices, and a study finds that many teens who do not vape are still being affected by it. The 2018 study surveyed students ranging from 6th to 12th grade. Of those surveyed, 33.2% of non-vaping students reported exposure to secondhand aerosol.

While many believe e-cigarettes are safer than combustible cigarettes, they still contain many harmful or addictive chemicals. People exposed to secondhand aerosol may be absorbing nicotine, heavy metals, ultrafine particulates and other toxic substances.

The Teen Vaping Epidemic

Teen vaping statistics show that adolescents are using e-cigarettes in record-high numbers. According to the U.S. Food and Drug Administration:

  • 3.62 million adolescents were e-cigarette users in 2018.
  • E-cigarette use increased 78% among high school students and 48% among middle schoolers from 2017 to 2018.
  • 81% of adolescent e-cigarette users vape primarily because of the many available flavors.

Permissive Attitudes Likely Play a Role in Vaping Popularity

Because many people believe e-cigarettes are less dangerous than traditional cigarettes, vaping has less of a stigma attached to it than tobacco. However, both e-cigarettes and tobacco products typically contain nicotine, an addictive substance that has several negative health effects on teens.

These permissive attitudes may change due to the recent news of deaths and illnesses related to vaping. This information can help reduce the belief that vaping is not harmful. While there is still much to learn about the health effects of vaping, it’s known that e-cigarettes are not an entirely safe alternative to tobacco products.

Long-Term Effects of E-Cigs Still Unknown

Though the long-term effects of vaping are still being researched, scientists do understand the effects of nicotine on adolescents. Youth can begin developing nicotine addiction as quickly as one to two days after first beginning to use cigarettes. In addition, nicotine affects the developing brains of adolescents, interfering with cognitive development as well as inhibition control.

Due to the effects of nicotine alone, vaping is harmful for teens and young adults. Because nicotine affects reward centers in the brain, e-cigarette users may also seek out other pleasure-inducing substances. This can lead to drug use and addiction.

If your teen is using e-cigarettes or other substances, Next Generation Village is here to help. Contact us today to learn about teen-focused programs that can work well for your situation.


Tan, Andy; et al. “Trends in the Prevalence of Exposure to e-Cigarette Aerosol in Public Places Among US Middle and High School Students, 2015 to 2018.” JAMA Network Open, August 28, 2019. Accessed October 6, 2019.

Smoke Free. “What We Know About Electronic Cigarettes.” Accessed October 6, 2019.

Gentzke, Andrea; et al. “Exposure to Secondhand Smoke and Secondhand E-Cigarette Aerosol Among Middle and High School Students.” Preventing Chronic Disease, April 4, 2019. Accessed October 6, 2019.

National Institutes of Health. “Teens using vaping devices in record numbers.” December 17, 2018. Accessed October 6, 2019.

U.S. Food and Drug Administration. “Vaporizers, E-Cigarettes, and other Electronic Nicotine Delivery Systems (ENDS).” September 12, 2019. Accessed October 6, 2019.

Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. “Outbreak of Lung Injury Associated with E-Cigarette Use, or Vaping.” October 3, 2019. Accessed October 6, 2019. 

Goriounova, Natalia; et al. “Short- and Long-Term Consequences of Nicotine Exposure during Adolescence for Prefrontal Cortex Neuronal Network Function.” Cold Spring Harbor Perspectives on Medicine, December 2012. Accessed October 6, 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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