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Harmful Teen Vaping Side Effects Every Parent Should Know

teen vaping

Teens looking for ways to deal with stress may turn to e-cigarettes as a coping mechanism. Although they may know cigarette smoking is harmful, they may not realize vaping can cause serious health problems.

According to the CDC, more than 3 million middle and high school students reported using e-cigarettes within the past 30 days in 2020. Most of those students reported using flavored e-cigarettes. Do not be fooled by sweet and fruity flavors found in JUUL pods and other brands. E-cigarettes include harmful substances such as chemicals known to cause cancer and nicotine.

Dangers of nicotine addiction

Sherin Panacherry, MD, MPH, pediatric pulmonologist at Yale New Haven Children’s Hospital and Assistant Professor of Pediatrics at Yale School of Medicine, said nicotine addiction is the biggest health risk associated with vaping.

Teens are still growing, and their brains continue to develop into their 20s. Nicotine can harm parts of the brain that impact attention span, impulse control, learning and mood.

“Every time a new memory is created, or a skill is learned in youth, the brain creates synapses and connections that help further solidify the way that the brain is working. But then when you expose the brain to things like nicotine, it can weaken these connections,” Dr. Panacherry said.

In addition, teens who become addicted to nicotine may graduate to traditional cigarettes and are at an increased risk of addiction to other substances down the line.

Dangers of vaping

Vaping can cause other health issues as well such e-cigarette or vaping use associated lung injury, or EVALI. This happens when chemicals in e-cigarettes damage a patient’s lungs.

Dr. Panacherry said often patients come in with cough, difficulty breathing, fevers and shortness of breath. While initial testing does not find a diagnosis, imaging will eventually show changes to the lungs.

Those with severe asthma may also struggle with their symptoms or be at risk of developing more severe cases of respiratory illnesses such as COVID-19.

Learning how to quit vaping

Dr. Panacherry said if parents suspect their teen is vaping and would like to discuss it with their child, they need to be ready to listen. It is imperative that the teen feels that the parent is on his or her side, rather than in direct opposition. Parents can look at their own habits and set a good example by being tobacco or vape free themselves.

For those looking to quit, decide why it is important to give up e-cigarettes. Reasons can include the cost of vaping, the health consequences or wanting to set a good example for others. Then, make a plan to quit and a back-up plan for when temptation strikes.

Lastly, teens should know that they have support to help them throughout their journey. Family, friends, a doctor or guidance counselor can be pillars to lean on when they are struggling with cravings.

For more resources, visit the CDC website.