Healthcare Risks of Vaping for Youth/Teenagers

Vaping and e-cigarette use has grown increasingly popular in the last five years, and especially with young people.

Many high school students participate in vaping than cigarette smoking these days. According to a 2018 survey, reported vaping of nicotine almost doubled among high school seniors since 2017, while 10.9% of 8th graders say they vaped nicotine in 2018. The high-tech design and marketing of vaping devices are key reasons teenagers are attracted to vaping. However, vaping can have serious healthcare risks for teenagers.

Brain and Neurological Risks

The nicotine in e-cigarette by itself can negatively impact a teenager’s neurological development. The portions of the brain that controls decision making and impulse control are not yet completely developed during adolescence, and as such, vaping nicotine poses a risk for long-term, long-lasting effects on the developing brains. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), nicotine can harm the parts of the brain that control attention and learning, mood and impulse control, and changes the way synapses of the brain, which are key to the brain’s function, particularly memory are formed.

Addiction Risks

Nicotine is popular in e-cigarettes, and it is an addictive substance. The National Institute of Drug Abused (NIH) maintains that nicotine increases levels of the neurotransmitter dopamine in the reward circuits of the brain, and repeated exposure to nicotine can alter the parts of the brain involved in learning, stress, and self-control. Long-term brain changes often result in addiction, which is a form of learning, which causes teenagers to get addicted easily. Even more concerning is that vaping nicotine in adolescence has the potential to increase the risk of addiction to other drugs.

Behavioral Risks

Vaping can be seen as a gateway to teen risky behavior and substance abuse. It can lead to teenagers using other tobacco products, from cigarettes to hookah. Based on a 2017 study, e-cigarette use was linked with health-risk behaviors among high school students; the results concluded that teenagers are more likely to engage in specific injury, violence and substance use, as well as risky sexual behavior. Vaping can lead teenagers to try other substances like cocaine, and engage in sexual activity without the use of a condom.

Vaping is only getting more popular with teens, and it’s important to educate them about the risks of vaping on their physical and psychological health. It impacts certain undeveloped parts of the brain, causes addiction, not only to nicotine, but primes the brain for addiction to other substances, and causes teens to participate in risky behaviors.

If you believe your child has been using e-cigarettes or vapes frequently, then make sure you get your child the necessary counseling and healthcare screenings to begin cessation.


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