Vaping: An Adolescent Health Scare

By Cole Purvis
Teen girl pouring vape juice into her vape

Vaping — a national health concern sweeping America’s youth. For years, the allure of flavored e-cigarettes and the misconception that they are a safer alternative to traditional smoking have contributed to a surge in popularity among teenagers. This has left many parents wondering: is my kid vaping, and, if so, what should I do now? Let’s explore how to recognize the signs of vaping, its long-term damaging effects on the body and the strategies we can use to prevent children from putting themselves at risk.

Don’t Miss the Signs

It’s essential for parents, guardians, teachers and other caregivers to be mindful of the signs that a teenager may be vaping. According to research from Nemours Children’s Health, a nonprofit organization dedicated to pediatric research, common signs of adolescent vaping include new and unexplained health issues, such as coughing and wheezing; e-cigarette accessories, including cartridges or other suspicious-looking items; and unusual scents (often fruity or sweet) from them or their belongings.

Be Aware of the Risks

According to the 2016 U.S. Surgeon General’s Report on e-cigarette use among America’s youth, there are several risks associated with vaping at a young age. These include addiction, negative behavioral impacts, an increased likelihood to consume other drug and tobacco products, etc.


Our brains are constantly developing until the age of 25. Before we reach that point, we receive and retain information at a much higher rate. According to the Surgeon General’s Report, “Each time a new memory is created, or a new skill is learned, stronger connections – or synapses – are built between brain cells. Young people’s brains build synapses faster than adult brains. Because addiction is a form of learning, adolescents can get addicted more easily than adults.”


Researchers at Columbia University’s School of Public Health conducted a study involving more than 50,000 U.S. adolescents revealing a strong correlation between vaping nicotine and an increased likelihood of binge drinking and cannabis usage. In fact, their research found that young adults that vaped were 20 times more likely to use cannabis than those who didn’t.


Vaping is costly, not only for your child’s health but for their wallet too. Truth Initiative, a non-profit combating tobacco and nicotine addiction, found that e-cigarettes can cost users nearly $2,000 annually. This does not account for any potential medical visits that may result as a side effect from vaping.

Talking it Over with Your Teen

If you discover that your child may be vaping or are concerned they might be, it’s best to remain calm. Try engaging them in a non-judgmental discussion about the topic, addressing its risks, health concerns, etc. Reassure them that you are coming from a place of support and that you simply don’t want them to fall victim to any unwanted side effects, including addiction, anxiety, depression and/or other adverse side effects. Creating unnecessary arguments and accusations can be prohibitors of a more meaningful, educational conversation.

For confidential free help from public health agencies to find substance use treatment and information, refer to the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration’s (SAMHSA) National Helpline: 1-800-662-4357

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