As vaping grows in popularity among teens, parents should be prepared to answer questions about it. Vaping is when a person uses a device that looks like a cigarette or USB flash drive to inhale nicotine and other chemicals, called vapor. The devices are battery-powered and heat up e-liquids that contain nicotine and other chemicals to create an aerosol, which is then inhaled into the lungs.
The vapor from a vape has been shown to contain cancer-causing chemicals, like formaldehyde and acetaldehyde; chemicals known to cause lung disease, including diacetyl; heavy metals, such as nickel, tin, lead and cadmium; and tiny (ultrafine) particles that can get deep into the lungs and irritate them. The vapor also contains nicotine, which is addictive. Nicotine can change the brain and make it harder to concentrate, learn and remember things, and can increase impulsiveness and self-control problems. One vape pod can deliver as much addictive nicotine as a pack of cigarettes, and it trains the brain to want more. It can also lead to other tobacco use, such as regular cigarette smoking.
Many teens try vaping because they think it is less harmful than smoking. They are lured by appealing flavors, such as mango, cucumber and creme, and the idea that it isn’t a “real” cigarette. They may be convinced by vape ads, which often feature celebrities and athletes and are geared toward young people. They may hear that vaping is cool and that it’s not as addictive as smoking, or they may feel peer pressure.
Vaping can affect your lungs, heart and brain. Nicotine and the other chemicals in e-liquids can irritate the lungs, raise blood pressure and narrow arteries. They can also cause lung scarring, called bronchiolitis obliterans, or popcorn lung, which makes it hard to breathe. The chemicals can also damage your eyes and can burn the skin.
A study found that the toxins in second-hand smoke, from either cigarettes or vaping, are more dangerous than first-hand smoke. Second-hand vaping vapor is especially toxic because it can cling to clothing, furniture and other objects. It contains smelly chemicals and compounds that pollute indoor air, and they can be inhaled or absorbed through the skin.
There are free resources available to help teens quit vaping. Ask your health care provider, therapist or school counselor about them. You can also find support online, by text and phone and through apps. You can start by making a list of reasons you want to stop and look at it or think of it when you feel the urge. Set a date to quit and tell supportive friends and family about your plan. Try to avoid situations where you normally vape, and replace them with healthy activities. Get lots of exercise, which will distract you from the cravings and help you feel good.
It can be difficult to quit, but your brain, body and future deserve it. You can do it! It may take several tries, but you can get there.