A vape is an electronic cigarette that simulates tobacco smoking by using a heating element to turn liquid into vapor, which the user inhales. It is often made by the same companies that make and market regular cigarettes, and it has a reputation for being healthier than traditional smoking.
But a new study by scientists at Johns Hopkins University shows that vape liquids contain toxic chemicals and carcinogens, including caffeine, nicotine, three chemical additives that have never before been detected in e-cigarettes, a pesticide and two flavorings linked to respiratory irritation. And while it may be tempting for kids to try vaping to help them quit smoking cigarettes, it is also dangerous for their health.
The study also found that a single vape pod delivers as much nicotine as a pack of cigarettes, so vaping can lead to nicotine addiction and the increased risk of lung damage and disease in young people. It has also been shown to decrease motivation and drive, making it harder for teens to do things they enjoy, like going to school or spending time with friends.
Vaping can also interfere with their ability to exercise because it increases heart rate and blood pressure. One teen he worked with told him his swim times had dropped because he could no longer sustain the high heart rate needed to perform in competitions. Another teen reported that his asthma got worse when he started vaping.
Parents can talk to their kids about the risks of vaping, and they can make sure they are aware that it is illegal for children under 18 to use e-cigarettes in England. One of the UK’s top respiratory doctors has said that without urgent regulation, “it is likely that a whole generation will be addicted to vaping, and will have long-term and life-threatening effects on their lungs”.
E-cigarette companies are trying to get around the law by putting their products in kid-friendly packaging and marketing them with images of happy, healthy teenagers. But research from King’s College London and Action on Smoking and Health shows that simply removing brand names from the devices was enough to reduce their appeal among teenagers, and didn’t deter adults.
The most important thing we can do as a community is to talk to young people about why vaping is bad for them and how they can stop. It might be difficult for them to hear, but it is essential to their mental and physical health. If they are still struggling, it is important to connect them with support, whether from a family doctor or mental health professional, and to encourage them to take advantage of resources available for tobacco addiction. It is also important to be a good role model and to be open about your own experience with tobacco and vaping, especially if you are a parent. Your child might then feel comfortable asking you for help.