The increase of vaping and vaping-related deaths among teens is a rising concern both in the US and in other countries. But is this really an epidemic killing our children or just the usual parental panic? We dug into the statistics on teenage vaping so that parents could get the facts.
History of Vaping
Vaping is the common term used to inhale vapor using an e-cigarette (electronic cigarette). These battery-powered e-cigs contain a liquid-filled cartridge that contains nicotine, flavoring, and other additives and chemicals. E-cigs are also used to vape cannabis and THC, the psychoactive ingredient found in cannabis.
The first e-cigarette was developed in 2003 by Hon Lik, a pharmacist from Bejing. In 2007, e-cigs were introduced to North America, quickly becoming popular among both smokers and non-smokers.
Why Are Teens Vaping in Such High Numbers?
Marketed as a way to quit or cut back on smoking, more teens than ever are vaping despite the risks and dangers. JUUL, one of the leading vaping devices used by teens, was originally marketed with fun flavors, can be charged in the USB port of any laptop or PC, and looks similar to an Apple product. Manufacturers are counting on the allure of this “cool” product and experience to attract teens into becoming habitual users.
Elizabeth Saewyc, a professor of the School of Nursing at the University of British Columbia in Vancouver, Canada noted in the Vancouver Sun that social media is being used to send messages to teens that vaping is “safe, tech, and cool.”
“YouTube is becoming a really popular place where young people are talking about the different kinds of e-cigarettes, how they’re modifying them, the different juices and all of the different sorts of equipment, plus showing tricks that you can do with steam,” Saewyc stated.
Statistics on Teenage Vaping Usage
The statistics on teenage vaping usage are alarming:
- In 2018, 20.8% (1 out of every 5) high school students reported that they had vaped in the last 30 days, an increase from 1.5% in 2011.
- In 2018, almost 4.9% of middle school students reported that they had vaped in the last 30 days, an increase from 0.6% in 2011.
- In 2018, more than 3.6 million teens in the US used e-cigs.
- A 2019 study shows an increase of 74% in teens vaping in Canada.
- 68% of high school vapers use flavors, an increase from 20% in 2018.
- Most teen e-cigarette users aren’t aware that e-cigs contain nicotine, with 60% of teens believing that the device contains mostly flavoring.
Chemicals in E-cigs
More than 42 harmful chemicals have been identified in e-cigarettes, including these top harmful substances:
- Propylene glycol and/or vegetable glycerin
A synthetic substance that absorbs water and is often used to create artificial fog or smoke. Propylene glycol increases airway and lung irritation, as well as eye and throat irritation.
Found in e-cig flavoring, diacetyl is often used to give foods a buttery taste. When used in high concentrations in e-cigs, diacetyl has been linked to lung disease.
Benzene is found in vehicle exhaust and emissions from burning oil and coal. This substance is classified as a carcinogen.
A carcinogen that increases the risk of some cancers.
Risks of Vaping
Recent news reports link vaping to lung illnesses through the US, including six deaths. Here’s what else we know about the risks of vaping:
- E-cigarettes contain high levels of nicotine, which is an extremely addictive substance. Teens, whose brains are still developing, are more susceptible to addiction than adults, quickly becoming addicted to vaping.
- Nicotine can impair brain development in adolescents.
- Chemicals found in the vapor of e-cigarettes have been linked to an increased risk of some cancers.
- Vaping can lead to a lung irritation that causes an immune response to infection within the airways.
- Dangerous toxins in vaping can cause circulatory problems and increased blood pressure and heart rate.
Legislation across the United States is attempting to reduce and limit the access that teens have to e-cigarettes:
- As of June 15, 2019, youth access to e-cigs has a minimum legal sales age of 18 to 21 in most states.
- Eight states have enacted bills to raise the legal age for the sale of tobacco products, including e-cigs, to 21, effective July 1, 2019.
- New York and Michigan are among the states that have banned flavored e-cigs.
Other countries around the world also have legislation planned or in place to restrict teen access to vaping devices:
The Tobacco and Vaping Products Act prohibits vaping products to be sold to anyone under the age of 18.
- Throughout Europe
Legislation enforces a 20 milligram limit of nicotine per each milometer of liquid, in comparison to the US which allows 59 milligrams. The law also prohibits selling vaping devices and products to minors under the age of 18.
Talking to Teens About Vaping
While the CDC continues its investigation into the dangers of vaping, parents and educators need to talk to teens about the risks. After educating themselves, parents need to keep the dialogue open, not just talking about the dangers but also peer pressure and the fear of being left out. There’s a lot of pressure on teens to fit and conform, which leads many of them to vaping with e-cigs, quickly leading to a harmful addiction.
Statistics on Teenage Vaping — Sources
CASAA: A Historical Timeline of Electronic Cigarettes
Vancouver Sun: Vaping more popular than ever with B.C. teens despite medical horror stores
CDC: Youth and Tobacco Use
U.S. Food and Drug: 2018 NYTS Data: A Startling Rise in Youth E-cigarette Use
Canadian Cancer Society: Study finds dramatic 74% increase in youth vaping in Canada
Know the Risks: Get the Facts
Truth Initiative: E-cigarettes: Facts, stats, and regulations
Gasp For Air: Harmful Chemicals In Electronic Cigarettes
Child Mind Institute: Teen Vaping: What You Need to Know
USA Today: A 6th person has died from a vaping-related lung illness, this time in Kansas
NCBI: The Dynamic Effects of Nicotine on the Developing Brain
BMJ Journals: Pro-inflammatory effects of e-cigarette vapour condensate on human alveolar macrophages
Live Science: Vaping May Create Toxic Chemicals That Damage Your Blood Vessels
Public Health Law Center
Government of Canada
The Chronicle Herald: Vaping companies facing European opposition to higher nicotine level