Vaping is dangerous for teens and damaging to their developing brains
E-cigarettes are the most commonly used tobacco product among U.S. middle and high school students. Some e-cigarettes don’t look like tobacco products, so kids can use them unnoticed in schools, including in classrooms and bathrooms.
"The most dangerous aspect of e-cigarettes is that up until 2016, they were completely unregulated and even today we still don't know exactly what's being inhaled," says Brent Fuller, MD, Beaumont pediatrician and internal medicine physician. "You're inhaling a multitude of chemicals (at least 60 chemical compounds have been found in e-cigarettes)."
Until about age 25, the brain is still growing. Each time a new skill is learned, stronger connections – or synapses – are built between brain cells.
Youth brains build synapses faster than adult brains. Because addiction is a form of learning, they can get addicted more easily than adults.
Because nicotine changes the way synapses are formed, the parts of the brain that control attention and learning can be harmed.
This makes youth uniquely at risk for long-term effects of nicotine exposure, including addiction, mood disorders, and permanent lowering of impulse control.
E-cigarette use among youth is strongly linked to the use of other tobacco products, such as regular cigarettes, cigars, hookah, and smokeless tobacco. It is NOT a safer alternative to smoking.
Some evidence suggests that e-cigarette use is linked to alcohol use and other substance use, such as marijuana.
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E-cigarette use poses a significant – and avoidable – health risk to young people in the United States. Besides increasing the possibility of addiction and long-term harm to brain development and respiratory health, e-cigarette use is associated with the use of other tobacco products that can do even more damage to the body. Even breathing e-cigarette aerosol that someone else has exhaled poses potential health risks.
Keep your eyes open for signs of vaping, and get familiar with the different kinds of vapes out there. If you think your teen is vaping, be open and proactive in dealing with it. A school counselor, doctor, or other professional can provide information and support.
PAVe: Big Tobacco Messed with the Wrong Moms podcast discusses the youth vaping epidemic, sharing important information about everything from serious health risks to quitting resources
Learn more about vaping at the links below, and check out our Parent Resources page.