Teen Nicotine Vaping Reaches Epidemic Levels — What Parents Can Do

Teen Nicotine Vaping Reaches Epidemic Levels — What Parents Can Do

Despite the recent federal ban on the sale of tobacco products to anyone under age 21, media reports show that hasn’t stopped teens from vaping. And while the FDA has also banned many flavored electronic cigarettes, youth are finding ways to exploit a loophole that still allows flavored disposable products.

E-cigarettes are a growing trend that is not only contributing to nicotine addiction among teens but is also causing lung injuries and other health concerns. Parents need to understand the facts — and learn how they can help their kids.

The high appeal of e-cigarettes


Cigarette smoking among adolescents has been on the decline in the past decade — but that’s because teens are more likely to vape than smoke cigarettes, according to the National Institute on Drug Abuse. Among 12th-graders, nearly 12 percent said in 2019 that they used e-cigarettes daily, compared to only 2.4 percent who smoked cigarettes every day.

E-cigarette use has more than doubled among high-schoolers and more than tripled among middle-schoolers between 2017 and 2019. More than 5 million middle and high school students used e-cigarettes last year, compared to 3.8 million in 2018. Both the Federal Drug Administration and the American Lung Association say e-cigarette smoking among youth has reached epidemic levels.

Flavored e-cigarettes are particularly a concern, as they come in various fruit flavors and it’s what attracts many kids to vaping. Nearly 70 percent of middle and high school e-cigarette smokers use flavored tobacco products.


Vaping-related health and other issues


One of the concerns about e-cigarettes is that they’re a gateway to smoking — and more people die from smoking every year than from alcohol, car accidents, AIDS, illegal drugs, homicides and suicides combined. But even before they become fully fledged smokers, vaping adolescents are putting themselves at high risk for various health issues.

Since e-cigarettes are a relatively new product, their long-term health effects are not known. However, the American Lung Association says that evolving evidence shows they cause irreversible lung damage and lung disease.

A national outbreak in lung injuries, investigated by the Centers for Disease Control last year, underscored the dangers of e-cigarettes. More than 2,800 hospitalizations had been reported, including 68 confirmed deaths. The CDC attributed them to the presence of several substances in tobacco vaping products, including THC (tetrahydrocannabinol) and vitamin E.

Studies have found that inhaling even small amounts of the two primary e-cigarette ingredients (propylene glycol and vegetable glycerin) exposes individuals to high toxicity levels. Lung disease or injury is only one concern — e-cigarettes cause a variety of other health risks, from cancer and diabetes to cardiovascular disease. E-cigarettes are especially dangerous for youth because they negatively affect the developing brain.

How parents and other adults can help


A variety of surveys have shown that adolescents are not aware about the health risks of vaping. Parents, as well as other adults such as teachers and faith leaders, can help guide teens toward making healthy choices.


What you can do:

  • Educate yourself first about the facts and risks of nicotine vaping. The U.S. Surgeon General’s website is one of the many informational resources available.
  • Start a conversation with an open mind — and be ready to listen. Find natural openings that would lead to conversation starters. Don’t worry about covering everything in one discussion. It’s OK to do it in bits and pieces.
  • Reduce the teens’ exposure to vaping. Be a role model yourself, and don’t allow others, including family members and friends, to vape in the presence of adolescents.
  • Get your healthcare provider’s help. Ask your pediatrician or family physician to talk with your teen. Hearing from a neutral party who’s in position of authority helps emphasize the message.
  • Explore whether professional support, such as a teen vaping and smoking cessation program offered by the American Lung Association, may be beneficial.


If you’re concerned that your teen may also engage in other risky behaviors, such as vaping cannabis/THC oils or using other drugs and alcohol, contact Olalla Recovery Centers. Our expert counselors can help you understand what resources and options are available for your teen.