What is vaping?
Vaping is using an electronic cigarette as a method to inhale nicotine. Electronic cigarettes usually are composed of a battery and cartilage where a liquid (often called 'juice') is stored. The liquid is heated, resulting in a 'vapour' that is inhaled. The liquid usually contains nicotine, water, flavours with propylene glycol (PG) or vegetable glycerin(VG) base (or a mix of PG and VG).
Why is vaping unsafe for teens?
The majority of vapes available contain nicotine, which can develop into an addiction for a teen. Nicotine addiction can slow brain development, affect attention, memory, learning, self-control, and mood. Brain development will continue through early adulthood, usually to the age of 25.
While being less harmful than conventional cigarettes, vaping is not safe or risk-free. Many of the ingredients in vapes are considered food-safe but may not be when heated and inhaled. The research around vaping is still evolving, but vaping can increase your exposure to harmful chemicals or contaminants.
The government regulates e-cigarette products, but that only applies to reputable brands and storefronts. Due to age restrictions, the majority of teens get their vapes from unknown or unconventional sources. Therefore. There can be an increased risk of exposure to unknown harmful substances. For example, Vitamin E, which is safe for ingestion or applied to the skin, is potentially toxic when inhaled.
Why do teens vape?
Experimental: They are curious about it, and they want to try it out.
Stress reduction: They see it as a means to cope.
Modelling: They see others using vapes. This can be friends, family, or strangers.
Misinformation: Some teens are unaware that vapes contain nicotine or that they are addictive. They may think that it is just flavoured water vapour and it is risk-free.
Nicotine dependence: some teens may start off smoking regular cigarettes and have switched over to vaping. Some teens use both simultaneously.
How do I prevent my teen from vaping? How do I help my teen stop?
Learn all you can: look at credible sources for information about e-cigarettes or vapes.
Role model: Be smoke-free. If you don't smoke, don't start. If you do, it is never too late to quit. There are programs and help available. You can begin by speaking to your primary care provider. If you are using an e-cigarette or vape, explain to your teen why you are using one. For example, reducing harm or as a tool for quitting. Ensure that your equipment is secure and out of reach from your teen.
Talk to your teen: Try not to force the conversation but approach your teen from a place of concern. Answer any questions they may have. If you don't know the answer, that is okay. Try finding the answer together with your teen. You can always ask your health provider for more information as well. For more tips on how to talk to your teen, check out the links below.
What is the purpose of electronic cigarettes or 'vapes'?
Electronic cigarettes or 'vapes' should only be used by adult smokers as an alternative to regular cigarettes. Although nicotine is very addictive, studies have found the most harmful effects arise from burning tobacco itself. Using an electronic cigarette can reduce harm for the person who is smoking and may aid them in quitting smoking altogether. Vaping is not safe but is generally considered less harmful than conventional cigarettes.
For those who wish to stop smoking, behavioural counselling and/or nicotine replacement therapy (NRT) is commonly used. Standard NRT products include gum, patches and tablets. However, e-cigarettes may be more appealing than other forms of NRT since they also address the psychological, social, and behavioural aspects of tobacco addiction.
It is important to know that vaping has not yet been extensively studied, so there are potential unknown short- or long-term effects. Regardless of age, it is not recommended that you use e-cigs or vapes if you are a non-smoker, pregnant, or have successfully quit smoking.
References and Additional Resources:
Talking to your Teen about Vaping:
Information about Teens & Vaping
Vaping & Harm Reduction
Primer: Tobacco Harm Reduction - E-cigarettes | Alberta Health Services
E-Cigarettes, Harm Reduction, and Tobacco Control | Mayo Clinic