Vaping has become one of the most popular forms of substance use among young people, despite it being illegal to sell to anyone under the age of 21 and growing evidence of its health risks and harms.
How does vaping work?
What are teens vaping?
High levels of nicotine
Nicotine doses in vaping products can range from 2mg/ml to more than 59mg/ml, and some companies are engaging in “a nicotine arms race,” trying to raise the dose to levels that exceed those found in traditional cigarettes or competing vapes. JUULs currently contain 59mg/ml of nicotine in each pod in the United States — an amount equal to about 1-2 packs of cigarettes.
Thousands of flavorings
Vaping products come in thousands of tasty, unmistakably child-friendly flavors, many with fun and enticing names. The flavors help mask the harsh taste of nicotine and other chemicals contained in the e-liquid, making it easier to inhale the aerosol. Sweet, fun flavors like gummy bear and cotton candy often remind teens of happy childhood experiences, making them feel harmless. Recent crackdowns on flavors by the federal, state and local governments have begun to shift the landscape of preferred vaping products among youth. Now that flavors, aside from menthol and tobacco, are generally banned in refillable cartridge-based devices like JUUL, loopholes in regulations are driving kids to flavored disposable vapes that have even higher nicotine content and come in countless enticing flavors.
Other chemicals, metals and ultrafine particles
The aerosol, which many teens believe is harmless water vapor, actually consists of many chemicals, heavy metals, and fine particles — many of which are toxic and dangerous — that seep deep into the lungs and bloodstream when vaping.
Marijuana or other drugs
Increasingly, marijuana ingredients are found in vaping products, including THC — the psychoactive compound in marijuana that creates a sense of being high — the leaf form of marijuana, and CBD. Vapes have also been used to inhale other substances.
Why is vaping bad for teens?
Why is vaping so popular?
Most vapes are discreet, easy to hide and generally seen as cool and relatively harmless. They come in thousands of tasty flavors that help cover the harsh taste of the chemicals and override the sense that these products might be harmful. They also produce a brief positive sensation or ‘head rush’ that some people like.
Most also have very high doses of nicotine, which can rapidly make those who vape develop an addiction or become dependent on the product. Some young people are also drawn to the “vape tricks” and “cloud competitions,” where they form cloud-like shapes or patterns when exhaling the vape’s aerosol. These tricks are usually performed with modifiable devices, or ‘mod’ style vapes. People will breathe aerosol deep into their lungs and then exhale it through their ears, eyes or nose.
Teens say they vape for many reasons. Curiosity is one, and peer pressure is another. They see friends or family members vaping and they are drawn to the appealing flavors. For others, it’s to do vape tricks. Some also say they do it because they feel it is less harmful than other tobacco products and it’s also discreet. Increasingly, teens report that they are vaping because they are hooked and can’t quit.