When you vape, a battery-operated device heats a liquid solution that contains nicotine and other chemicals to make a fine mist that looks like smoke. It’s a popular activity among teens and many think it’s safer than smoking, but it isn’t. Vaping can cause lung and other health problems, including addiction.
Nicotine is a highly addictive chemical that stimulates the adrenal glands to release epinephrine, which increases levels of a natural reward signal in the brain, called dopamine. This feeling of pleasure motivates some people to use nicotine again and again, even when they know it is damaging their body and mind. In addition, using vapor products can trigger a dependence on nicotine and increase the risk of addiction to other drugs.
Vapor devices also contain other chemicals that may be harmful, such as formaldehyde and acetaldehyde, which are known to cause lung damage. And they might contain small particles of heavy metals, such as nickel, tin and lead, that can be inhaled deep into the lungs. In fact, vaping has been linked to a number of unexplained illnesses and deaths.
The problem is even worse for teenagers, who are more likely to start vaping than adults and are more likely to continue using it as they get older. Some researchers are concerned that if this trend continues, young people could end up with long-term nicotine addictions and lung problems like scarring or narrowing of the tubes that bring air in and out of the lungs.
It’s important for parents, teachers and other adults to talk with the young people in their lives about the dangers of vaping. And to help them find ways to quit, which isn’t easy. There are free resources available to them, including online, texting and phone services, and apps that can help them stay smoke-free.
The best way to prevent youth vaping is to never start it in the first place. But if you do, it’s important to ask for help – from your doctor or therapist or from groups and organizations that offer free quit support. And remember that it can take a while to quit, so don’t give up! For more information on how to quit, visit the Smoke-Free Family page.