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Teen Vaping Addiction

Teen boy vaping nicotine inside of a school library  

Although teen smoking rates have declined, the trend of vaping has become increasingly popular in its place. Vaping is now the top way that teens are exposed to tobacco products. In fact, young people are more likely than adults to be exposed to tobacco by vaping. Despite the dangers of vaping, teens may think that vaping is harmless.

What Is Vaping?

Vaping refers to inhaling heated liquid. It involves the use of an e-cigarette, which is a battery-powered device. However, the name “cigarette” is a misnomer, because the device can contain other substances besides nicotine. First, the teen puts a liquid into the device. When the device is turned on, the liquid is heated hot enough to become vapor. The teen then inhales the vapor. Anyone standing nearby is also exposed to the steam.

E-cigarettes come in many different shapes and sizes. While some look like traditional cigarettes, others look like USB ports, pens and other items. Common names for e-cigarettes are:

  • Vapes
  • Vape pens
  • Pod mods
  • E-hookahs
  • Tanks
  • Electronic nicotine delivery systems, or ENDS
  • Plugs

The liquid contained in the e-cigarettes also has various names like:

  • E-juice
  • E-liquid
  • Cartridges
  • Pods
  • Oil

What Are Teenagers Vaping?

When a teen vapes, they are breathing in the vapors from a heated liquid. The liquid itself usually has a chemical base of propylene glycol or glycerol, also known as glycerin. Extra substances are then added to the base, such as:

  • Nicotine
  • Flavoring
  • Marijuana concentrates
  • Hash oil

However, by vaping a teen can also be exposing themselves to unexpected hidden ingredients. These agents can be harmful additives in the vaping liquid. They include:

  • Ultrafine particles which end up in the lungs
  • Diacetyl, a chemical linked to serious lung disease
  • Volatile compounds
  • Cancer-causing agents
  • Heavy metals like nickel, tin and lead

Teenage Vaping Statistics

Teen vaping has become increasingly common. As of 2018, almost 5% of middle school students used vaping products over the past month. The number of teens who vape increases as they get older. As of 2019, many teens admitted to vaping over the past year including:

  • Almost 18% of 8th graders
  • More than 32% of 10th graders
  • Over 37% of 12th graders

Many substances can be vaped. The most common substances vaped over the past year were:

  • Nicotine, which was used by almost 30% of 12th graders
  • Flavoring only, which was vaped by more than 25% of 12th graders
  • Marijuana or hash oil, which was used by about 13% of 12th graders

Dangers of Teen Vaping

Vaping poses many dangers to health, such as:

  • Addiction
  • Harm to brain development
  • Cancer
  • Exposure to toxins
  • Exploding e-cigarette devices
  • Accidental absorption of vaping liquid through the skin or eyes

Teen Vaping in the News

In September 2019, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention put out a bulletin to warn the public about the dangers of vaping. More than 500 cases of lung damage have occurred from vaping. Around 16% of the people harmed have been children under the age of 18, and 72% are male. In some cases, the damage has been fatal. Seven people have died so far from vaping-related causes, although the age of the victims has not yet been reported.

Lung damage has occurred even when people have used different substances: some of the damage has occurred when people have used marijuana, while other damage has happened when people used nicotine. Further, there is no single vaping device that has been linked to all the injuries. Doctors think that symptoms in people harmed from vaping are consistent with chemical exposure. Symptoms include:

  • Cough
  • Chest pain
  • Shortness of breath
  • Fatigue
  • Vomiting
  • Diarrhea
  • Fever

Vaping has also been in the news over the past few years due to the risk of fires and explosions from the devices. From 2009 to 2016, e-cigarettes caused 195 fires or explosions. These incidents took place in a variety of situations, such as:

  • Almost 32% of incidents took place when the device was in someone’s pocket.
  • Around 31% of incidents happened when the device was in use.
  • Nearly 25% of incidents occurred when the device was being charged.

Teens are not immune to vaping-related explosions and injuries. In March 2018, an e-cigarette device exploded while a teen was using it, knocking out several teeth and breaking his jaw.

Vaping vs. Smoking Cigarettes

Because of reports of lung damage from vaping, the CDC recommends people stop vaping. However, until recently vaping was considered less dangerous than smoking cigarettes. In part, this is because they have fewer small particles that can be inhaled than burned tobacco does. Previously, small studies found that vaping did not have serious effects up to two years after people started vaping.

Side effects of vaping were limited to mouth and throat irritation. Reports of lung damage from vaping reflect more recent data. At this time, it is unclear if lung damage is an effect of long-term vaping.

Signs Your Teen’s Vaping is an Addiction

Vaping can be addictive. This is especially true if your teen is inhaling addictive substances like nicotine. Vaping may also lead to other future forms of addiction. In particular, doctors think that vaping may make a teen more likely to become addicted to smoking cigarettes later in life.

If your teen is resistant to quitting vaping even though he or she knows the risks, their vaping may be an addiction. Our experts at Next Generation Village can help guide you to determine the next steps to treat your teen’s vaping before it harms their health. Contact us today to learn more.

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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