Vaping Creates New Health Concerns for Teenagers


Over the summer of 2017, a vaping device known as the JUUL boomed in popularity across the U.S. The device’s modern design looks quite similar to that of a USB drive, making it easy for teen students to use in school environments. This new vaping craze has raised many concerns about health, legal consequences, and user lifestyle.

“My biggest concern is not only the legality of it, but also how harmful they are to a young adult’s brain. As we take drugs, we are actually significantly altering our brain chemistry,” says forensic chemist and parent, Erica Reck.

According to Psychology Today, nicotine, a chemical fount in tobacco products, is one of the most heavily used and addictive drugs in the U.S., and is also the leading preventable cause of disease, disability, and death. On average, one JUUL pod is approximately equivalent to 1 pack of cigarettes or 200 puffs, and each JUUL pod contains 0.7ml with 5% nicotine by weight.

“Nicotine isn’t the only thing that e-cigs deliver; they also deliver formaldehyde,” says Dr. Joseph G. Allen, an assistant professor from Harvard School of Public Health.

Formaldehyde is a well-known carcinogen that is made in vapes by the heating of propylene glycol. Diacetyl is another very harmful component of vaping. Diacetyl is included in most vape flavorings and is found in 75% of vape canisters. This chemical is best known for developing Obliterative Bronchitis, also known as “popcorn lung,” a very serious and permanent lung disease. Some symptoms of popcorn lung are: wheezing, dry cough, shortness of breath, difficulty breathing, unexplained exhaustion, rapid breathing, chest pain, and persistent facial irritation. These symptoms usually begin to occur after 2-8 weeks since contact with the chemical.

“Teenage users of e-cigarettes are more likely to start smoking regular cigarettes,” says a research analyst from the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services.

According to the National Institute of Drug Abuse, 30.7% of e-cig users start smoking within the first six months of vaping. It is also shown that e-cigarette use in teenagers has gone from 1.5% to 11.3% in the past several years.

“I think that we are actually doing our children a disservice by not prosecuting them as juveniles,” says Reck about teaching students the legal consequences of using vapes/drugs illegally.

According to the Virginia Department of Education, in the 2016-2017 school year there were 8,409 alcohol, tobacco, and other drug offenses. Currently, according to Woodgrove High School Principal Sam Shipp, if students are caught using vapes they get suspended and if students get caught with a vape in their possession, they get in-school-detention.

“I feel sad knowing that some of my friends are vaping in school. Not only are they breaking the rules, but they are also hurting themselves,” says Mikaela Fairbanks, a freshman at Woodgrove High School.

Many students say they have seen people vaping on school property and on the bus ride home, which is a punishable offense.

“I certainly hope that they would make better choices,” says Shipp.