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Health and Fitness News

The Vaping Teen

Take a peek behind the curtain of the teenage vaping fad.

It’s hip, it’s modern, and it’s considered a better option than traditional tobacco cigarettes. And while it may not smell as badly as cigarettes, you may be wondering whether the electronic cigarette your teen just got caught with is actually not all that bad. With one in five teens giving vaping at least a try, parents need to get the lowdown on these electronic, less smelly versions of smoking sooner rather than later. Their teens’ health may be at stake.

What’s the scoop on vaping devices and what risks do they pose specifically for teens? You’re about to find out.

Understanding the Vape

Whether an e-cigarette, a vape pen, or an advanced personal vaporizer, vaping devices all essentially function the same. The user inserts the mouthpiece into his or her mouth and hits the power button. (Some don’t require a power button but rather rely on sensors.) This causes the mechanism’s battery to turn on the heating component, which quickly transforms flavored liquid into vapor, which the user inhales.

As with cigarettes or pipes, the user allows various amounts of vapor into the lungs. Unfortunately, this so-called vapor from which the device gets its name is not exactly harmless water vapor. Rather, it is an aerosol that consists of toxic chemicals. Of course, saying you’re using a toxic aerosol-creating cigarette isn’t as catchy as vaping, so the term “vaping” won the day.

Thus far, researchers are scrambling to evaluate the effects of vaping. Because it is such a new technology, there hasn’t been enough time to see its effects on a generation of users. However, a growing pile of evidence is finding that willingly inhaling the chemicals created by vaping is a health hazard at any age.

We see clear signs that youth use of electronic cigarettes has reached an epidemic proportion, and we must adjust certain aspects of our comprehensive strategy to stem this clear and present danger. - Scott Gottlieb, MD, Commissioner with the United States Food and Drug Administration

Teenage Draw

Though harmful to all, the dangers seem most poignant for young users, largely because of the exploding popularity of vaping amongst teens, who are amongst the most prone to peer pressure. In America alone, more than 3 million students in middle and high school vaped in 2015, a 20-percent increase over the year before. Also, while fewer than two percent of high school students admitted to using an e-cigarette or other vaping device in 2011, eight times as many had a mere four years later.

The attraction of vaping on a young audience is obvious: it smells better, comes in all sorts of flavors, and doesn’t leave users smelling of cigarette smoke. Tack on the facts that vaping can be done more discretely than cigarettes, they’re often sold to underage children with no questions asked, and that it’s considered “potentially healthier than tobacco cigarettes,” and it’s no wonder teens are falling all over themselves to vape their lives away.

Real Dangers

Great as vaping may taste, it still comes with some significant risks. Those with asthma will likely experience worsened symptoms, as the aerosol irritates the lungs. The chemicals used in the liquid may cause a host of diseases, including cancers. And getting started early with vaping puts teens on the fast track to becoming addicted to vaping and eventually moving into smoking cigarettes.

Making vaping even more dangerous for teens is their bent toward risky behavior. Because of this tendency, teens are more likely to vape items not meant to be vaped. This includes alcohol, marijuana, and more. Additionally, while vaping does not cause the user to ingest tar, there is nicotine, making vaping addictive just like cigarettes.

So are e-cigarettes the great smoking alternative as many have claimed? You be the judge.