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Vaping has hidden risks for teens

Because vaping is such a new phenomenon, there is little research on its effects.
Because vaping is such a new phenomenon, there is little research on its effects. Centre Daily Times, file

A new trend designed to help adults quit smoking has captured the attention of America’s teenagers: vaping. Advertisements for popular brands list the benefits for adult smokers, but they don't acknowledge the attraction for young people.

So, what makes vaping so attractive to teens? One reason is that it is so easy to hide. Many teenagers are vaping right in class. The devices are so small that teens can fit them in between their hands to inhale without anyone knowing it. One device, the Juul, has USB pods that contain the vaping substance. Students are able to charge them in their computers, and parents never notice the difference.

Another attractive feature is the flavoring. There are many different flavors to vape ranging from cotton candy, mango and mint to tobacco, vanilla and caramel. If you can think of a flavor, they have it.

Devices used to vape are a vape pen, a vape box, an e-cigarette or a Juul. There are three main substances that are vaped. One is a flavored water vapor, which many people erroneously believe is harmless. Those flavors contain chemicals that are approved by the FDA as “Generally Recognized as Safe” for consumption, but when the mix is heated and vaped, there is no guarantee of safety because the levels ingested range so much. Another substance vaped is liquid THC, the chemical compound in marijuana. One pod in a vaping device is the equivalent of an entire joint. The third major substance being used is nicotine. One vape pen can have nicotine equivalent to one pack of cigarettes.

Because vaping is such a new phenomenon, there is little research on its effects. Many of the chemicals used in the substances become carcinogens when heated up. Most e-cigarettes contain nicotine, which is the addictive component of cigarettes. The aerosol emissions from the device contain potentially harmful substances. Because these products aren’t regulated, it is impossible to know what is in an e-cigarette and use can lead to inflammation in the lungs, regardless of the substance you are vaping.

A non-health-related risk is physical injuries from malfunctions. There have been reported cases of batteries exploding and victims receiving second- and third-degree burns.

There are many misconceptions about vaping, including the idea that e-cigarettes can help people quit conventional cigarettes. In fact, young people who reported using e-cigarettes were more than eight times as likely to start using conventional cigarettes as those who were not e-cigarette users. What started as a “cool trend” is having the potential for serious medical side effects. These risks are higher for young people because their brains and bodies are still developing. While there are age restrictions to purchase, they are poorly enforced and there is no real way to verify age for online purchases.

Talk to your teens about the risks of vaping. Check out these websites for more information and to see images of the different devices:‎

Alexa Maltby is an intern with Centre County Youth Service Bureau and a senior at Penn State.