Sarah was shocked to get a call from her son’s middle school principal, demanding that she come pick him up for “emergency removal and suspension.” He and two of his friends had been caught vaping on campus after school. Sarah knew vaping was dangerous, but had not expected the school to enforce the rules so strictly.
In 2021, the Johns Hopkins Center for Tobacco Research published a study1 revealing that vaping products contain thousands of chemical ingredients, most of which have not been tested. The most common ingredients include nicotine (which can be addictive), propylene glycol and glycerin, which are used to create the aerosol mist that users inhale. Many products also contain a variety of flavors, which are often made from artificial or food-based chemicals that can cause lung irritation and other health problems.
Despite its negative health effects, e-cigarettes are widely promoted as a safe alternative to smoking. The devices have exploded in popularity, reaching nearly 28 percent of high school students last year. E-cigarettes have a battery-powered heating element that heats a liquid solution, usually propylene glycol and glycerin, to produce a vapor, or aerosol, that the user inhales. The vapor contains tiny particles of nicotine, metals and flavorings that can be inhaled into the lungs.
The vapor is said to deliver a smoother, more satisfying smoke than traditional cigarettes. However, the reality is that the smoke produced by vaping devices contains dangerous chemicals. Nicotine reaches the brain within 10 seconds and triggers a dopamine surge, which makes people feel good—but it can also cause long-term changes to the brain that promote addiction. Some products, like JUUL, deliver as much nicotine as a whole pack of cigarettes.
Many young people assume that vaping is a safe alternative to smoking. It’s popularized in movies, advertised on TV and in music, and it’s available in a wide range of brightly colored flavors. Plus, it’s not uncommon to see kids at school or at public places vaping, so teens may think that it’s an ordinary thing that doesn’t pose any risk.
It’s important for parents to understand the appeal of vaping and what we know about its risks. Educating kids can help prevent them from taking up this habit, which can lead to nicotine addiction and other health problems.
Tobacco and other drug addictions harm your heart, lungs and other organs. They increase your risk of asthma, can make it harder to breathe, and cause cancer and other diseases over time. Nicotine and other chemicals in e-cigarettes can also hurt brain development, raise your blood pressure and narrow your arteries. They can even lead to a serious lung condition called bronchiolitis obliterans, which is sometimes referred to as popcorn lung. And there are many other potential health effects that we don’t yet know about. vape