5 Things Parents of Teenagers Need to Know About Vaping

Almost everyone knows that vaping is not a good thing. Although vaping products can only be sold to people over the age of 21, it has become one of the most popular forms of substance abuse among teenagers and young adults. Between the wide variety of appealing flavors, aggressive marketing, and sleek, easy-to-hide devices, vaping is extremely popular among the youth in America today.

That being said, there are many myths out there about vaping, and many of these myths can be damaging to one’s health. If you are the parent of a teenager or you are using e-cigarettes yourself, here are 5 things you may not know about vaping that you need to be aware of.

1. E-cigarette Use is Linked to Illegal Drug Use and Mental Health Problems

Using nicotine in any form during adolescence may increase the risk of future drug use and mental health conditions. This is because nicotine directly affects the areas of the brain that are responsible for learning, mood, and impulse control. Since teen brains are still developing, nicotine abuse can have devastating effects on these processes, increasing the likelihood of additional problems later in life.

Studies have shown that people, who use e-cigarettes, are more likely to struggle with ADHD, PTSD, gambling disorder, and anxiety. Similarly, these individuals are more likely to report having low self-esteem and high rates of impulsivity.[1] People, who struggle with mental illness, low self-esteem, and impulsivity are all more likely to abuse substances and become addicted.

Some of the most common drugs of abuse among people, who used e-cigarettes in the previously mentioned study are:

  • Marijuana
  • Hallucinogens
  • Cocaine
  • Opioids

2. Young People Who Vape are More Likely to Perceive Cigarettes as Safe

Most people view vaping as a safer alternative to cigarette smoking. The truth is that smoking any type of substance is dangerous, and there are more harmful chemicals in vaping than just nicotine. However, even though many cigarette smokers turn to e-cigarettes in order to quit smoking cigarettes, vaping does not necessarily prevent people from smoking cigarettes later in life.

In fact, a report from John Hopkins University explains that most people, who intend to kick their cigarette habit by means of vaping, end up using both e-cigarettes and traditional cigarettes. In addition, the U.S. Surgeon General found that in 2015 40% of young e-cigarette users had never even smoked tobacco before.[2]

Young people, who start using e-cigarettes before traditional cigarettes, are more likely to ignore the dangers associated with nicotine, cigarettes, smoking, and drug use in general. They may even be more likely to use traditional tobacco products later in life than teens, who never start vaping in the first place.

3. Vaping is Addictive – Even if the Juice is Nicotine-Free

Nicotine is one of the most addictive substances. However, there are some vape juices out there that offer a flavor-only, nicotine-free option. Many people believe that they cannot get addicted to vaping if they are not vaping an addictive substance, so they believe the myth that nicotine-free vaping is safe and non-addictive.

The truth is that vaping can be more than a substance addiction – it can also be a behavioral addiction. Similar to compulsive nail-biting, gambling addiction, or sex addiction, vaping addiction does not have to involve an addictive substance at all. Some people find the action of putting a vaping device up to their lips and blowing out smoke to be addictive. Others get attached to holding such devices in their hands to deal with nerves or anxiety. Whatever the case may be, people can get addicted to vaping even if the juice they are using is nicotine-free.

While they will not experience the withdrawal symptoms associated with nicotine addiction, people, who are addicted to vaping flavor-only juices, may constantly think about vaping or be depressed and unable to concentrate if they try to stop vaping.

4. 90% of Vape Juices Contain Diacetyl – a Dangerous Chemical

One study conducted by Harvard found that over 90% of e-cigarettes and vape juices with flavoring contain diacetyl. Diacetyl is a flavoring agent that is used in many foods that are safe to eat, like popcorn, baked goods, and candies. It can create a wide variety of flavors, and is considered safe when consumed in foods. However, there is evidence suggesting that diacetyl is dangerous when inhaled.[3]

When inhaled, diacetyl is linked to bronchiolitis obliterans, a serious lung disease commonly referred to as “popcorn lung” after it first appeared in workers, who inhaled butter flavoring, in microwave popcorn manufacturing facilities. Researchers have since confirmed that diacetyl and similar flavoring agents can impair the structure and function of cilia in the lung. Cilia are hair-like projections that line the bronchus in the lungs to protect the lung lining and eliminate foreign bodies.

Shockingly, Harvard reports that although factory workers receive warnings in regard to the dangers of inhaling these flavoring agents, many e-cig users are unaware of this danger lurking inside their vape juice. The CDC reports that in 2020, 82.9% of youth, who reported using e-cigarettes had used flavored varieties of e-liquids.[4]

5. Vaping Can Be More Addictive than Cigarette Smoking

E-cigarettes, like the Juul, were aggressively marketed as a way for people to quit smoking. Attempting to quit smoking is hard to do and while e-cigarettes do not produce the 7,000+ chemicals and carcinogens that cigarettes do, vaping is still dangerous – and it can even be more addictive than cigarette smoking.

Some of the most popular types of e-cigarettes on the market are what is known as a “pod mod.” This involves a system where users have a vape battery and a pod that is filled with e-juice. The concern with pod-mods is that the amount of nicotine contained within them is estimated to be between 2-10 times more concentrated than nicotine in cigarettes and in other types of vape liquids.[5] For example, a single Juul pod contains as much nicotine as one pack of cigarettes – and many teens can easily blow through one or even two pods per day. That is a lot of nicotine for a young, developing brain to handle. Even more concerning is the fact that approximately two-thirds of Juul users, aged 15-24, do not know that their pods contain nicotine, so some teens may get addicted without even knowing it.[4]

Since many types of vapes contain such a high amount of nicotine, certain pod-mod vaping systems may be more addictive than cigarette smoking. In addition, vapes are virtually odorless, and the odor that they do produce dissipates quickly, making it easy for teens to vape at school, in the bathroom, and even at home without anyone finding out. Between the high concentration of nicotine and the ease of use of these devices, vaping is highly addictive.



  1. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC6420081/
  2. https://www.hopkinsmedicine.org/health/wellness-and-prevention/5-truths-you-need-to-know-about-vaping
  3. https://www.cdc.gov/tobacco/basic_information/e-cigarettes/Quick-Facts-on-the-Risks-of-E-cigarettes-for-Kids-Teens-and-Young-Adults.html
  4. https://www.hsph.harvard.edu/news/press-releases/common-e-cigarette-chemical-flavorings-may-impair-lung-function/
  5. https://www.yalemedicine.org/stories/vaping-nicotine-addiction/

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