While it is well-known that teens take risks, the latest risk is vaping or electronic cigarette use. Teenagers may think vaping is not that serious, but it can impact their health seriously. Vaping is a new dangerous trend hooking the next generation on nicotine or marijuana quickly.
Massachusetts Center for Adolescent Wellness recognizes that teen vaping can lead to substance abuse and mental health difficulties. We offer an outpatient treatment program that helps to address mental health and substance abuse issues for teens and their families.
What is Vaping?
Vaping is where a vapor created by a vaping device, like an e-cigarette, is inhaled. Electronic cigarettes also referred to as vape pens, heat up a liquid until it becomes a vapor that the individual inhales. This liquid often contains nicotine, marijuana oil, or distillate.
Electronic cigarettes can come pre-filled or refillable with cartridges that have the e-liquid. The pre-filled e-cigarettes are designed for one-time use. Once the teen takes a certain number of “puffs”, they toss the device out.
Why is Vaping Bad For Teens?
At first, e-cigarettes and vaping were marketed as a tool to help individuals quit their tobacco habit. But there’s not much scientific research that substantiates that claim. They’re loaded with about the same amount of addiction-forming nicotine and other toxic substances.
Teen Vaping Addiction
Once teen vaping occurs, addiction can keep the teen returning for more. Research shows that a lot of teens underestimate nicotine’s addictive properties, and they have low-risk perceptions of vaping and other similar products.
Nicotine addiction matters since teen nicotine use can have an impact on things like:
Harmful Compounds with Vaping
There’s concern about the specific long-term effects of other types of compounds that vaping contains, particularly regarding cancer, since many of the compounds are potential carcinogens.
There are still other harmful compounds in vapors, such as:
- Cancer-causing chemicals
- Ultrafine particles that lead to lung disease
- Metals like lead and formaldehyde
E-cigarettes also include different aerosols, including:
- Toxic metal particles such as lead, nickel, and chromium, which individuals can inhale into their lungs.
- The chemicals acrolein, formaldehyde, and acetaldehyde-also in the smoke of cigarettes-which can lead to irreversible lung damage.
- Other toxic chemicals like propylene oxide, acrylonitrile, and crotonaldehyde.
Not only are there risks to vaping on its own, but research shows that teens who vape have a higher likelihood of starting smoking cigarettes, despite their often-deadly and well-known health consequences like heart disease and lung cancer.
How Does Vaping Affect a Teens Body?
Vaping does have several health risks, including:
- Becoming a smoker – Individuals who vape have a higher likelihood of starting smoking regular cigarettes (tobacco) and have a higher risk of developing other addictions.
- Addiction – There is nicotine in e-cigarettes and other vaping devices. Nicotine is highly addictive, and individuals don’t need to vape daily to become addicted.
- Depression and anxiety – Nicotine makes depression and anxiety worse. It can affect self-control, memory, attention, and concentration, particularly in developing brains.
- Sleep problems
- Chronic bronchitis
- Exposure to chemicals that cause cancer.
- Life-threatening lung damage
There is the possibility of other health effects. Vaping hasn’t been around for very long. Therefore, all potential health risks aren’t clearly known.
Signs Your Teen is Vaping
Unless a parent catches their teen vaping, it can be hard to know if they’re actually vaping. The best approach parents can take is to talk with their teens regularly about tobacco products and vaping. Parents and loved ones can also make themselves aware of the company and friends their child is keeping.
While it’s simpler for a teen to hide their vaping habit than it would be to hide the fact that they smoke regular cigarettes, staying tuned into their teen’s routines and doing a little detective work, there are several cues parents can look out for that could be a sign that their teen is using vape products.
1. The Air Has a Sweet Scent
Many vaping pods had sweet flavors before the recent ban. Teens often preferred these. After vaping, these can often linger in the air. While sweet flavor pods were banned recently to curb teenage vaping, teens may still have some of these prohibited products left, or parents may be able to recall a sweet smell coming from their child’s room in the past.
2. Unfamiliar USB Drives and Pens
Although e-cigarettes can come in various forms, they often look like USB flash drives or writing pens. However, these devices will have a hole on each end.
If a parent notices their child experiencing nosebleeds, the culprit could be vaping. One of the chemicals in the e-liquid, propylene glycol, is a dehydrating chemical that reduces the moisture inside the nose. When individuals vape, many exhale the vapor through their noses, which causes dryness and can cause nosebleeds.
4. Drinking More Water
Vaping can lead to dry mouth or dehydration, most likely due to the propylene glycol ingredient in the e-liquid. If a parent’s child seems to be drinking more water than usual or if they have dark circles under their eyes (a dehydration symptom), it may be time to investigate further.
5. Mouth Sores or Smoker’s Cough
Some research now links e-cigarettes to smokers’ cough and mouth sores that don’t heal. The vapors upset a person’s immune system, which can adversely affect human cells.
6. New Chargers and Batteries
Most vaping devices require chargers or batteries that need to be changed after the device has been used for a couple of hours. However, some only require a USB cable to charge them. Parents should look out for unfamiliar battery charging devices or batteries.
7. Discarded Vaping Devices and Pods
If parents notice items like discarded pods, cotton balls, atomizers (small devices that cause the liquid to turn into vapor), or thin metallic oils in their child’s trash or backpack, it’s a good sign they’re vaping.
What Are the Teen Vaping Statistics?
A study by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) showed that 99% of e-cigarettes being sold in evaluated locales in the U.S. contained nicotine. In 2022, estimates show around 2.5 million (one in 10) middle and high school students in the U.S. presently used e-cigarettes (past 30 days). Approximately 380,000 (3.3%) middle school students and 2.14 million (14.1%) high school students claimed to currently use e-cigarettes.
Over 27.6% of teenage vaping or e-cigarette users vape or use e-cigarette products daily. More than four in 10 adolescent e-cigarette users claim they used e-cigarettes at least 20 of the previous 30 days. Disposables were the most commonly used devices (55.3%) among current teen users, followed by refillable/prefilled cartridges or pods (25.2%).
Get Help with Teen Vaping in Massachusetts
At Massachusetts Center for Adolescent Wellness (MCAW), we take a comprehensive approach to treating several behavioral and mental health issues, including teen vaping. Our skilled and highly-trained specialists work with the clients and their families to help come up with a tailored treatment plan that will address their health concerns.
MCAW provides specialists trained in various forms of therapy, including family therapy, which helps rebuild family connections damaged by various behavioral or mental health problems. Contact us to learn more about our treatment programs for teens.