Clouds of vape smoke have become an increasingly common sight where teenagers congregate. Vaping is the new favorite way for teens to get their nicotine, with 14% of high schoolers using vapes regularly. Vaping is often touted as a safer alternative to cigarettes, but unfortunately, it has serious health consequences. Vaping comes with its own litany of health issues, especially when it comes to teens.
Human brains do not stop developing when the body does. While a person may be done growing at age 18, the brain does not finish developing until age 25. Someone in their teenage years can still have a decade, or more, until their brain is fully developed. The use of any nicotine product, including vapes, can have a huge impact on teen brain development. When it comes to a developing brain, nicotine can damage the parts that control attention, learning, mood, and impulse control. This can lead to brain fog, mood swings, learning disabilities, and poor impulse control. In addition, nicotine use can affect memory storage. New memories are created by the building of synapses between brain cells, and young people’s brains are much faster at building these connections. When nicotine is thrown into the mix, the way these synapses are built changes. This can cause memory problems in teens who vape.
Many smokers will claim that the giant clouds produced by vapes are just water vapor. This could not be further from the truth. The “vapor” is actually an aerosol, a mist composed of millions of tiny solid particles. This is bad news for the consumer’s lungs. The lungs are meant to inhale and process air, not solids. The inhalation of this aerosol is especially dangerous when it comes to teens, whose lungs are not finished developing. When it comes to teens, vaping has even been proven to cause lung disease, which causes life long issues. Symptoms of lung disease include shortness of breath, chest pain, coughing, weezing, and increased heart rate. It is even believed that vaping by teens can cause a rare form of lung disease known as bronchiolitis obliterans, often referred to as popcorn lung. Popcorn lung is a buildup of scar tissue in the lungs, which causes difficulty breathing. It is believed one cause of popcorn lung is exposure to the chemical diacetyl, which is found in many vapes.
It is important to note, teens may assume that THC vapes are safer than regular vapes, but this is not the case at all. THC vapes utilize that same lung-disease-causing aerosol as nicotine vapes, and thus carry the same risk of lung disease. A teen using THC vapes may even be suffering from marijuana use disorder, a serious issue where a person is unable to stop using marijuana, no matter the negative impact it is having on their life.
Many teens may choose vaping over cigarettes to avoid cancer. Vapes still contain a number of carcinogens and should not be considered a safe alternative to cigarettes. These carcinogens include acetaldehyde, formaldehyde, acrolein, and many more. Vapes are also known to contain heavy metals such as nickel, tin, and lead, which can also cause cancer. Most commonly, vaping could lead to lung cancer, but having these carcinogens introduced into the body will increase a teen’s chances of developing all forms of cancers later in life. While the connection between vaping and cancers is still being researched, consensus is starting to build that stopping vaping of any kind is a health positive choice for young people.
Just like traditional forms of tobacco, vapes still contain nicotine. Depending on the brand of vape, the level of nicotine can be even higher than that found in cigarettes. Studies have shown that even vapes claiming to be “nicotine free”, still contain trace amounts of nicotine. In some cases, the amount of nicotine was even equal to that found in a full strength nicotine vape. Basically, vaping can be just as addictive as smoking, or perhaps more addictive. Teens who suffer from nicotine addiction are known to experience anxiety, irritability, restlessness, difficulty concentrating, depressed mood, frustration, anger, increased hunger, insomnia, constipation, and diarrhea. Becoming addicted at such a young age can also lead to teens having lifelong struggles with addiction.
Treatments for Vaping Addiction in Teens
Vaping addiction in teens is a serious matter which can be difficult to overcome, but it is possible. There are numerous treatments that have proven to be effective, and there are even specific vape addiction treatments available. Treating vape addiction usually combines a number of different strategies in order to be successful. These include therapy, holistic approaches, group support, peer interaction, family involvement, and relapse prevention. It is often a good idea to use a treatment facility that works with a wide range of diagnoses, in case there is an underlying cause to the addiction. For example, some teens may turn to vaping in an attempt to help with depression or anxiety. Whichever method is used, a speedy intervention is recommended, as the longer the addiction goes on , the harder it is to break.