Dear Your Teen:
My daughter tells me that vaping is the popular, new thing for teenagers. What do I need to know?
The use of electronic nicotine delivery systems, including e-cigarettes and other vaping devices, has increased dramatically among teens in recent years. In fact, vaping devices now are now more commonly used than traditional cigarettes among high school students. Because they do not involve the inhalation of tobacco smoke, they are considered less harmful than cigarettes. Ongoing research is evaluating whether they may help smokers to stop or reduce their health risks.
However, most experts agree that their use by teens is a cause for serious concern for several reasons.
Health concerns of teen vaping
They promote nicotine addiction
Nicotine addiction is one of the most difficult addictions to reverse and it increases not only the likelihood of later cigarette smoking, but the risks of abuse and addiction to other substances.
The teenage brain is especially vulnerable to effects of substances like nicotine
The early use of alcohol, nicotine, or other drugs increases the risk for negative health effects and other consequences.
Several additives in e-cigarettes are known carcinogens or toxins
The long term health effects of aerosolizing nicotine and the e-cigarette flavorings into a young person’s lungs are unknown
The use of these products re-normalizes “smoking” behavior
After two decades of intense national efforts and notable success at reducing smoking. And the taking over of small e-cigarette companies by big tobacco companies will make each of these problems worse.
Experts are calling on federal agencies to support research into the risks and possible benefits (for smoking cessation) of these products and to better regulate their access and marketing to young people.
In the meantime, please strongly encourage your daughter and her friends to stop vaping. A lifetime of nicotine addiction, whether from traditional or alternative tobacco products like e-cigarettes or vapes, should be avoided at all costs.
Dr. Samuel A. Ball is president and chief executive officer for CASAColumbia, a national nonprofit research and policy organization focused on improving the understanding, prevention and treatment of substance use and addiction. Dr. Ball is also a professor of psychiatry at Yale University School of Medicine.