Why Are So Many Teenagers Vaping?

Posted on March 23, 2023

teen coughing after vaping

The popularity of vaping and electronic cigarettes has soared in recent years, particularly among teens. According to the 2022 National Youth Tobacco Survey (NYTS), 11.3% (3.08 million) of middle and high school students reported current use of tobacco products, and 3.5% (960,000) reported current use of multiple tobacco products. The most commonly used “devices” included:

  • E-cigarettes
  • Cigars
  • Cigarettes

E-cigarette use among youth remains a top concern for the FDA (and many other healthcare authorities). 14.1% (2.14 million) of high school students and 3.3% (380,000) of middle school students reported current e-cigarette use, with nearly 85% using flavored e-cigarettes (fruit flavors are the most popular). More than a quarter use an e-cig product every day, and 4 in 10 report using e-cigarettes at least 20 of the last 30 days.

Despite its popularity, Nicotine is dangerous for adolescents, as it has been shown to affect brain development.

The History Of Vaping

Originally, vaping was a way for smokers to replace cigarettes with less dangerous tobacco products. As with any “less dangerous” forms of addictive substances, vaping has created as many problems as it fixed.

When you vape, you are inhaling aerosolized particles of a glycerin-based liquid that contains flavorings and nicotine. There is no combustion or burning. Many people believe vaping is safer than smoking (which may be true sometimes), but there is no question among experts that vaping is bad for your health.

Contrary to what manufacturers would like you to believe, e-cigs have not decreased nicotine use. Most vaping products contain nicotine. Many smokers who used e-cigs to quit smoking report that they end up smoking cigarettes AND vaping nicotine. One popular vape cartridge contains as much nicotine as a full pack of cigarettes.

Why Are So Many Teens Vaping?

Even though teenagers vape for different reasons, the most common include:

  • Misconceptions of Safety. Many teenagers vape because they believe it is less harmful than smoking. Electronic cigarettes seem “cleaner.” Since vaping is touted as a “safe” alternative to smoking, many teens who never smoked are vaping. If you couple this misconception with the backlash against teen smoking and tobacco products in general, it really shouldn’t be surprising that vaping is popular.
  • Access. Access is easy and legal — there are vape shops on almost every corner, and other stores sell vape products.
  • Advertising. E-cig manufacturers design eye-catching ads and devices that appeal to younger people (this should come as no surprise for those of us old enough to remember Joe Camel!). Flashy ads make vaping seem cool. Companies appear to be targeting young people by introducing a wide selection of flavors. Most adult users prefer plain tobacco flavor, while teens find it amusing to combine different flavors. The ads do not emphasize the risks associated with vaping, and current regulations on advertising require a warning only.
  • Flavors. Vape liquids come in many “kid-friendly” flavors — fruit, candy, chocolate, mint, etc. The variety allows teens to experiment with various flavor combinations. Even if they are not using nicotine vapes, the flavored liquids can cause lung disease and establish a behavioral or psychological dependency that increases the chances of future vaping or smoking.
  • Devices. Many vape pens or e-cigarettes are shaped like a USB flash drive. Some have a fashionable modern design, and teens are wearing them as accessories or key chains.
  • Discretion. Many vaporizers are small and can be used discreetly. There are models that look like pens or computer flash drives that kids can keep in their backpacks. Some models produce very little vapor and don’t release a strong scent, so people can take a puff indoors and quickly put it away.
  • Cost. E-cigarettes are low cost compared to tobacco cigarettes, and they are reusable. Vaping, in some cases, has become less expensive than smoking.
  • Social Influence. Many teens try vaping because they see friends or family members doing it. Some vape because they have seen their favorite movie stars or media personalities vaping on the screen.
  • Tricks. Some teens have seen people use vaping devices to make clouds of different shapes and sizes, and they want to try.
  • As an attempt to quit other drugs. Some teenagers even start vaping to quit smoking traditional cigarettes.

Basically, the manufacturers and advertisers have created an environment where teens are led to believe that vaping is cool, trendy, and fashionable — and poses no health risks.

Is Vaping Dangerous?

Evidence suggests that inhaling vaping products may be dangerous. Some vape pens have been shown to contain heavy metals and chemicals associated with cancer (VOCs – volatile organic compounds, flavoring chemicals, and formaldehyde). Data shows that “secondhand vapors” can worsen indoor air quality.

The dangers of vaping are nicotine addiction, behavioral dependency, increased likelihood of smoking, increased risk of future drug addiction, heart attack, and lung disease (popcorn lung, pneumonia, COPD, lung fibrosis, and asthma).

The bottom line is vaping, even without nicotine or illicit drugs, has no positive health benefits while posing substantial risks.

Why Choose Rising Phoenix?

Rising Phoenix Wellness Services is a licensed mental health and substance use disorder Intensive Outpatient Program (IOP) in Scottsdale, Arizona. We created our addiction and mental health treatment program to offer a safe, welcoming, and nurturing environment where clients are embraced, not judged, throughout their recovery process.

We offer programming based on Integrity, Innovation, Confident Humility, and Mindful Leadership. Contact us today to learn more.

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