There are a high amount of teens in our community vaping, and I’ve been very concerned about it recently. I’ve been talking to my son and his friends at our events recently, asking questions. It has been my personal goal to find out what teens enjoy about vaping. The only answer I’ve gotten is “it is so cool. I can do tricks with the smoke.” They mention that their parents say it’s okay for them to do it, since it’s better than smoking tobacco or pot. It seems that many people find it to be the lesser of evils, so I’ve made an effort to research what we know about vaping.

When cigarettes were initially popular and use was widespread, we didn’t know the long term health risks. This unknown makes each teenager that has a vape pen a lab rat. We may not know the full health risks at the moment, just like with cigarettes.

There are many things that are concerning when it comes to vaping and vaping devices. There is evidence that adjusting the heating element in vaping pens to higher ranges can convert the common chemicals found in vaping oil, like propelyne glycol and vegetable glycerin, to dangerous chemicals like formaldehyde and acetaldehyde. Both of these chemicals are known carcinogens, specifically when inhaled into the lungs.

There’s not a requirement to publicise the ingredients of the e-liquids at the moment, also known as “juice” or “vape juice.” There’s no way to know for sure what is in the bottle of flavored liquid teens are inhaling regularly. We do know, according to some studies, that diethylene glycol, a chemical toxic to humans that is often found in anti-freeze, can commonly be found in the juice cartridges. It isn’t okay for use in food or drugs, but is commonly a part of vape juice, something going directly to the throat, nose, and lungs.

Many teens aren’t only vaping juice, though, but also vaping concentrated THC oil. It’s commonly referred to as wax or dabs, and these have significantly higher amounts of THC than a joint. THC is the psychoactive chemical in marijuana that gets a person high. Since vaping wax has almost no smell, you may not even know that your teen is adding THC. Because it’s highly concentrated, it can cause much worse reactions to the THC, including psychotic breaks and hallucinations. It’s also far more addictive than traditional marijuana use.

Inhaling from a vape pen, with or without THC or tobacco, deprives your brain of oxygen temporarily. When testing vaping on mice, they found that vaping damaged lungs by attacking the molecules that hold endothelial cells together. Our lungs aren’t made to handle these amounts of chemicals entering our airways.

Want to know what’s really going into your lungs when vaping? The best way to see that it isn’t a clean source of air is to blow the vapor onto a clean, smooth surface a few times. After, take an oil-free finger, wiping it along where you exhaled the vapor. See the result? That’s what’s coating the inside of your lungs when you use a vaping device.

Many of the vaping pens and juices are imported from China. Because there are no regulations on them currently, you’re not aware of what is going into your body. Unfortunately, even if there were regulations, without clear testing, it’s hard to see what the long-term and short-term effects might be.

So why are teens vaping? There are several reasons. It’s a complex, very compelling mix of rebellion, impulsivity, and social acceptance, plus a technology component all rolled into one. In one sense, many kids are vaping for the same reasons that teens started smoking cigarettes decades ago– it gives the illusion of being cool, a distraction from insecurities and boredom, or an opportunity to socialize.

It’s time for us, as parents, to sit down and have a talk with our teens and with their friends about the side effects and the dangers of vaping. If we don’t talk to them and let them know why it isn’t okay, they may very well assume that we don’t have a problem with it– after all, it isn’t cigarettes or joints. That doesn’t make it a harmless hobby, which is why a serious discussion is in order.

As a child, I have many memories of my parents smoking. Everyone seemed to smoke. I remember when I asked my parents why they smoked, knowing the dangers that it presented. They told me that when they started smoking as teens, it was the cool thing to do. Everyone did it, including doctors, and no one was aware of the dangers of smoking. If even doctors did it, who would have thought it was unsafe to do?

It took decades of research and watching the effects, long-term, of smoking cigarettes for us to see how smoking led to illnesses like lung cancer, COPD, emphysema, and more. Until we can see the long-term effects of vaping, and until many more studies are done to show how it can impact teens especially, we have to take time to educate our kids and stop them from vaping. Don’t let your teen be a guinea pig.

One quote that really stood out to me was this:

“Jumping into the panda bear habitat at the zoo so you can give the big critter a warm, cuddly hug may be safer than jumping into than jumping into the polar bear habitat and doing the same thing. While it is true that the panda is much smaller (and perhaps cute) than a polar bear, and an herbivore would not try to eat you, he will most likely use his incredibly sharp and powerful claws and teeth to hug you right back… but at least you would not be eaten like the polar bear clearly would have done. It should be noted that no definitive scientific studies prove that jumping into the panda enclosure at the zoo is dangerous… so go ahead, at least they’re not polar bears!”

It’s very similar with vaping– when compared to cigarettes, it may not seem quite as dangerous, but that doesn’t mean that it is harmless. It just means that we don’t know the full impact at this time.

For more information on the harmful nature of vaping, and for the sources I used for the above, visit the links below.

The Surgeon General visits Good Mythical More and discusses Vaping (discussion on vaping starts at 3:44)

E-Cigarette Vapor—Even when Nicotine-Free—Found to Damage Lung Cells from The American Physiological Society

Are Vape Pens Dangerous? From Teen Therapy Center 

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