The Effects of Vaping on Teens and Young Adults

Electronic cigarettes are a popular alternative to cigarettes, even among teenagers and young adults. Using e-cigarettes is commonly referred to as vaping. While it may seem like a safer and healthier version of smoking, vaping comes with its own health risks.

What are E-Cigarettes?

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention define electronic cigarettes, or e-cigarettes, as devices that heat liquids and produce an aerosol in the air. The devices are referenced by different names, such as e-cigs, vape or dab pens, and mods.

E-cigarettes come in a variety of flavors like candy or mint that often appeal to younger users. The liquid is heated and inhaled similarly to regular cigarettes.

teen holding an e-cigarette

According to the CDC, aerosols from e-cigs contain harmful substances like nicotine; heavy metals such as nickel, tin or lead; and cancer-causing chemicals. These substances can be inhaled by the user and by bystanders. The American Lung Association adds that aerosols from e-cigarettes can also contain the chemicals formaldehyde and acrolein, which can cause irreversible damage to the body.

Is Vaping Safe?

Vaping is often viewed as a healthier alternative to traditional cigarettes or a way to wean off the habit altogether. However, many health studies have proven this to be untrue.

Vaping vs. Smoking

Using e-cigarettes as a teenager or young adult can damage many parts of the body and cause higher chances of developing other diseases or health issues later in life.

Nearly all e-cigarettes contain nicotine, with some having almost as much as a pack of cigarettes, causing e-cigarettes to be addictive like regular tobacco products. The aerosols of e-cigarettes do not have all the contaminants that are found in tobacco smoke, but there are still harmful substances.

The chemicals in e-cigarettes, in addition to nicotine, include diacetyl, nickel, tin, lead and other cancer-causing chemicals, and volatile organic compounds. If the liquids used in e-cigarettes are swallowed, breathed or absorbed through the skin and eyes, it can be poisonous.

E-cigarettes can also cause lung diseases like those of smoking.

What Does Vaping Do to Your Lungs?

The National Library of Medicine reports that studies have shown the use of e-cigarettes can increase the chance of developing chronic lung diseases, such as asthma and chronic obstructive pulmonary disease.

What is “Popcorn Lung?”

E-cigarettes can contain diacetyl, a flavoring chemical. This chemical can lead to bronchiolitis obliterans, or “popcorn lung.” The American Lung Association defines “popcorn lung” as a respiratory condition affecting the bronchioles of your lungs. Bronchioles are the smallest airways in the lungs. Popcorn lung causes inflammation, damage and scarring of these airways.

Symptoms of popcorn lung include:

  • Coughing
  • Shortness of breath
  • Fatigue
  • Fever
  • Night sweats
  • Skin rash

There is no cure for popcorn lung, but it can be managed with corticosteroids, inhalers, oxygen therapy and in worst case scenarios, lung transplants.

teen vaping

Brain and Mental Health Effects

According to the CDC, the use of products with nicotine by teenagers and young adults can harm the development of the brain, including the parts that control attention, learning, mood and impulse control. Using nicotine as a youth can also increase the chance of future addictions to other drugs, as well as impacting mental health and causing stress and depression.

Heart Issues

The American Heart Association notes that in addition to effects on other parts of the body, the use of e-cigarettes can affect the heart. The impact of nicotine use can cause several adverse effects, including:

  • Increased heart rate
  • Raised blood pressure
  • Constricted blood vessels The National Institutes of Health says, “chronic users of e-cigarettes may experience a risk of vascular disease similar to that of chronic smokers.” Impaired blood-vessel function can lead to a higher risk of developing heart disease.

How to Quit Vaping

Freedom from Smoking® is a six-class smoking cessation series developed by the American Lung Association. Methodist Medical Center of Oak Ridge offers Freedom from Smoking classes four times each year. Class participants work with an instructor from Methodist to identify people, places and things that trigger their urge to light up; create a stop smoking plan that fits their needs; and receive support to help avoid a relapse. The cost is $50 per person, and the fee is refundable upon completion of all six classes. Registration is required. Call 865-835-4662 or 1-800-468-6767 for current class dates and times.

You can also speak to your primary care provider or find a doctor near you.

News & Articles

Covenant Health