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Teens Using Vaping Devices in Record Number


Although e-cigarettes have been around for more than a decade, vaping rates have skyrocketed in recent years, especially among teens. Monitoring the Future, an annual survey that measures drug and alcohol use of 8th, 10th, and 12th graders has found that teen vaping is on the rise.

In 2018, past-year vaping for each grade was:
8th grade: 17.6%
10th grade: 32.3%
12th grade: 37.3%

With the release of the study indicating that nearly two in five 12th grade students reported using a vaping device in the past year, it is imperative that parents and teens are informed of the potential dangers that can result from vaping.

Vaping is the act of inhaling and exhaling the vapor produced by the heated nicotine liquid of an electronic cigarette, vape pen, or personal vaporizer. E-cigarettes come in many sleek designs and the vaping liquids can be made to taste like candy, fruit, ice cream, or any other food or beverage. Since they leave little odor, e-cigarettes are particularly easy to hide and can be used discreetly in public places, including school.

Unfortunately, many teens do not realize that vaping contains high levels of nicotine. For example, when asked during the survey what students thought they were smoking, many believed that the liquid contained in the e-cigarette was just flavoring. But according to JUUL, a popular vape device among teens, the nicotine content of one JUULpod is equivalent to one pack of cigarettes.

Early nicotine addiction can be detrimental to teens. It can harm brain development and alter nerve cell functioning. Nicotine can harm parts of the brain that control attention, learning, mood, and impulse control. It causes lung irritation akin to that seen in smokers and people with lung disease and has been found to damage vital immune system cells. In addition, defective e-cigarette batteries have caused fires and explosions which have resulted in serious injuries.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and the Food and Drug Administration examined self-reported reasons why teens were using e-cigarettes. The most common were because a friend or family member used them, the availability of fun flavors, and the belief that e-cigarettes are less harmful than other forms of tobacco. Other reasons teens reported using e-cigarettes include that they were easier to get than other tobacco products, cost less than other tobacco products, and can be used in areas where other tobacco products (such as cigarettes) are not allowed. Some students even reported that they used e-cigarettes to try to quit using other tobacco products-a ploy many e-cigarette companies use to market their products to teens.

But now, with millions of teens hooked on the device, there has been discussion of how to treat nicotine addiction in children as young as 11 years old. Many experts believe teens will be hampered by withdrawal symptoms including anxiety, irritability, difficulty concentrating, and loss of appetite. Additionally, physicians who are treating teenagers for addiction are facing a series of dilemmas. For example, anti-smoking therapies such as nicotine patches and gum are not approved for children. In addition, kicking any addiction requires discipline, patience, and a willingness to follow a treatment plan-something that doesn't come easily to teens.

Overall, teen vaping use is a frightening concern. As the trend continues, the FDA will have to intervene and set tighter regulations for sale and distribution. If not, the rate of teen nicotine addiction will spike creating a new public health emergency.

This article is written by Caroline Capriccio, a Rutgers University intern and Ezra Helfand, CEO/Executive Director of the Wellspring Center for Prevention.Y


National Institute on Drug Abuse

Child Mind Institute

Centers for Disease Control and Prevention

Truth Initiative

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