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  • Writer's picturePaula Robertson

The unseen dangers of vaping in teens

According to the website KidsHealth, vaping is the inhaling of a vapour created by an electronic cigarette (e-cigarette) or other similiar device. E-cigarettes are battery-powered devices that heat a liquid into an aerosol that the user inhales. The liquid usually has nicotine in it, along with flavouring and other additives.

Besides nicotine, e-cigarettes can also contain potentially harmful chemicals such as:

- Ultrafine particles that can be inhaled deep into the lungs

- Heavy metals such as nickel, tin and lead

- Volatile organic compounds

- Flavourants such as diacetyl, a chemical linked to serious lung disease.

The long term effects of smoking these chemicals is still unknown.

Among young people, e-cigarettes are more popular than any traditional tobacco product. U.S. Federal data in 2019 showed about 3 million high school students vaped last year in the U.S. alone. There is a real fear that e-cigarettes are addicting a new generation after decades of falling cigarette smoking rates.

Although companies are legally not meant to sell e-cigarettes to minors, their advertising and packaging often are targeted towards a younger audience, with their sleek designs and bright colours. Many teens believe that vaping is less harmful than smoking. Vape cartridges often come in flavours that appeal to younger users.

It’s important to remember that e-cigarettes often contain nicotine. One popular e-cigarette was recently mentioned in a bulletin from the American Academy of Pediatrics, which mentioned that the concentration of nicotine was more than double the concentration found in other e-cigarettes (one cartridge or pod can contain as much nicotine as 20 cigarettes).

Nicotine is highly addictive, especially to teens and young people. Physiologically this age group is more prone to addiction because the brain is still maturing at this stage, a process that is not completed until the early 20’s. The nicotine in e-cigarettes can slow brain development in teens and affect memory, concentration, learning, self-control, attention, and mood.

Nicotine’s addictive effects cause users to have cravings and experience withdrawal symptoms if they ignore them. Common withdrawal symptoms are:

  • Headaches

  • Feeling tired, cranky, angry, or depressed

  • Trouble concentrating

  • Insomnia

  • Hunger

  • Restlessness

The signs of withdrawal are strongest in the first few days after stopping, but get better over the following days and weeks.

Nicotine is also a toxic substance. It raises blood pressure and causes a spike in adrenaline, which increases heart rate and can cause heart rhythm disturbances, high blood pressure and increased risk of a heart attack or stroke.

E-cigarettes also can lead to other forms of tobacco use. It is said that people who vape are four times more likely to also take up traditional cigarettes.

In addition, some people use e-cigarettes to vape marijuana, THC oil, and other dangerous chemicals. Besides irritating the lungs, these drugs also affect how someone thinks, acts, and feels.

If you are concerned and want to stop vaping, here are some useful tips from KidsHealth:

1. Write down your reasons for wanting to quit to remind you when you feel the urge to vape.

2. Pick a day to stop vaping. Tell supportive friends and family that you're quitting on that day.

3. Get rid of all vaping supplies.

4. Understand withdrawal. Remember that withdrawal symptoms get better over the following days and weeks after stopping.

5. Prepare for feelings, people, and places that make you want to vape, and avoid them as much as possible. If you feel the urge to vape, try these things instead:

  • Chew sugar-free gum or drink water.

  • Reach out to a friend who will support you.

  • Listen to your favorite playlist.

  • Go for a walk or jog.

  • Try deep breathing or relaxation.

  • Keep busy with a hobby.

  • Go somewhere where smoking/vaping isn't allowed.

6. Talk to your doctor about local programs or resources that can help you quit vaping.

Additional resources:

Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Office on Smoking and Health. Talk with Your Teen About E-cigarettes: A Tip Sheet for Parents.

Be well,


Dr Paula Robertson is a busy mom and a paediatrician with over twenty years' experience working with young people and their families. You can find out more at

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