Teen vaping: An epidemic with unknown long-term consequences

Health and Fitness, Topics

Dr. Joseph Zajchowski

Vaping has become an epidemic among teens. While the rate of teen cigarette smoking is decreasing, the number of teenagers who are vaping is climbing.  A 2016 report by the U.S. Surgeon General found that vaping among middle school and high school students increased 900 percent between 2011 and 2015. With these statistics, it is important for both parents and teens to understand the dangers involved with vaping.

Vaping (short for vaporization) is the inhaling and exhaling of the aerosol that is produced by e-cigarettes. E-cigarettes are electronic smoking devices (usually battery powered) that produce vapor by heating an inner refillable cartridge containing a liquid. The fluid (e-liquid) used in e-cigarettes typically contains nicotine and other chemicals and comes in various flavors, such as peach, vanilla, cotton candy, and other sweet tastes that make them attractive to young users. One of the primary concerns with e-cigarettes is most contain nicotine, a highly addictive substance. 

The brain doesn't stop growing until around age 25 and most teens who vape are unaware the nicotine can be affecting to their development. "There is a lot of evidence showing that the adolescent brain is extremely sensitive to the effects of nicotine," says Dr. Joseph Zajchowski emergency department medical director at McLaren Lapeer Region. "Studies have shown that nicotine can interfere with learning and memory, as well as long-term behavioral impairments including depression, anxiety and mood disorders".

  • Other negative health risk include:
  • Increased heart beat causing cardiac arrhythmia
  • Trouble breathing and lung damage, even without the toxins of cigarettes
  • Acid reflux
  • Insulin resistance

Talk with your children about the risks and encourage them to avoid e-cigarettes and all other products containing tobacco and nicotine.

  • What can you do to prevent your child from using E-cigarettes or to help them stop?
  • Set a good example by being tobacco-free. If you use tobacco, it's never too late to quit.
  • Let them know about the harmful metals and chemicals that go into their bodies when they vape.
  • Explain the addictive properties of nicotine and how it can affect memory and concentration in their developing brain.
  • Let your child know that you want them to stay away from all tobacco products, including e-cigarettes, because they are not safe for them. For help and additional resources, visit Teen.smokefree.gov

If you have questions about your teen's health or e-cigarette use, talk to your pediatrician.