When it comes to vaping, it can be hard to separate fact from fiction. This page was created to help connect you with real information from a variety of credible sources so that you might find your own reasons to choose to avoid vaping and other tobacco products during your teen years. Take a minute and a half to watch this video of Alex Gray sharing his perspective.
Though it might seem at times like "EVERYONE is vaping", the truth is that many South Bay teens have chosen not to cave to vape culture, advertising influencers, and peer pressure because they know the real facts. At the bottom of this page you can click on a link to read reasons shared with us by South Bay teens through the Pass On It project and FAQs.
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A quick overview of vape devices
There’s a wide variety of vaping devices on the market with varying levels of complexity, and new products are coming out all the time. But at the most basic level, an e-cigarette (aka vape pen) has a cartridge containing a solution (e-juice), a heating element that aerosolizes the solution, and a power source for the heating element, which is usually a rechargeable lithium battery. They come in all shapes and sizes, and some resemble a USB device. Vape Mods are larger devices than e-cigarettes and have a tank and higher vapor production.
Though manufacturers may claim that “it’s just juice”, or that they are nicotine-free, a study by the Center for Disease Control and Prevention reported that 99 percent of e-cigarettes sold in U.S. in 2015 contained nicotine (source: The Truth Initiative). E-juice and vape pods can be purchased with varying concentrations of nicotine, sometimes equal to or higher than the nicotine content in conventional cigarettes.
Three facts about e-cigarettes and nicotine
A recent survey by the Truth Initiative found that 63 percent of 15 to 24-year-old previous 30-day users surveyed did not know that a single vapor pod containing 200 puffs can have just as much nicotine as a pack of Marlboros or Camels. (Source: Edutopia, 6/18). This is consistent with the University of Michigan’s Monitoring the Future study which found that the majority of youth e-cigarette users think that the last time they used a product they vaped only flavoring.
Nicotine, the drug in tobacco products, is a very highly addictive stimulant. When inhaled either via traditional cigarettes or e-cigarettes, nicotine enters the bloodstream, crosses the blood brain barrier, and enters the brain within 10-20 seconds. Addiction to nicotine is one of the hardest to overcome. (Source: Safe Kids America and U.S. Surgeons Report). Watch the video in this section for information on the origin of vaping devices as nicotine delivery systems.
The aerosol produced by e-cigarettes, including the nicotine, kid-friendly flavorings and other chemicals, can be breathed in by bystanders. (Source: Center for Disease Control)
Nicotine and your developing brain
As a teen or young adult, you are uniquely at risk for the effects of nicotine because your brain is not fully developed until you turn 25, on average. Every time you make memories or learn a new skill, your brain takes note. Because addiction is a form of learning, adolescents can then become addicted more easily. Additionally, nicotine puts the teen brain at risk because it can disrupt the areas affecting judgment, completing tasks, and meeting goals. Plus, it can make teens more prone to overblown emotional reactions and immature behavior. This goes way beyond teen moodiness. Using nicotine at a young age is associated with developing mental problems like depression, agoraphobia, panic disorder, and antisocial personality disorder. (Source: US Surgeon General Report and Still Blowing Smoke). Click on the image for more information from Still Blowing Smoke.
It’s not just vapor
The e-cigarette aerosol that users breathe into their lungs and exhale can contain unhealthy and potentially harmful substances, including:
Nicotine - again, even though some e-cigarettes marketed as containing zero percent nicotine have been found to contain nicotine (source: Center for Disease Control).
Ultrafine particles that can be inhaled deep into the lungs
Flavoring such as diacetyl, a chemical linked to a serious lung disease
Volatile organic compounds
Heavy metals such as nickel, tin, and lead
Cancer-causing chemicals (explained below)
The process of heating the nicotine solution produces aldehyde, acetaldehyde, formaldehyde, and acrolein, which are known carcinogens. The glycerin/propylene glycol and 8,000+ flavoring chemicals in e-cigs have only been approved for ingestion (eating). It’s not recommended by the manufacturers that these chemicals be inhaled, as they have not been widely tested for their potential sensitizing, toxic, or irritating characteristics. Learn more about the health risks of e-cigarette vapor and toxicology from Science News for Students and Still Blowing Smoke.
Don't be manipulated by the tobacco industry or peer pressure
Flavored e-cigarettes attract youth. Data from the 2016-2017 wave of the PATH study found that 96.1 percent of 12-17 year olds who had initiated e-cigarette use since the last survey wave started with a flavored product. Additionally, it found that 97 percent of current youth e-cigarette users had used a flavored e-cigarette in the past month and 70.3 percent say they use e-cigarettes “because they come in flavors I like.” (source: Campaign for Tobacco Free Kids)
The Surgeon General concluded that, “Themes in e-cigarette marketing, including sexual content and customer satisfaction, are parallel to themes and techniques that have been found to be appealing to youth and young adults in conventional cigarette advertising and promotion.” By mimicking the tobacco industry’s strategies, including celebrity endorsements, slick TV and magazine advertisements, and sports and music sponsorships, e-cigarette advertising has effectively reached youth and young adults.
Vape marketing tactics are often characterized by the freedom to rebel against being told not to smoke. “It’s not smoke, it’s vapor,” is something you may hear a lot these days from people who claim vaping tobacco is not as bad for you, or even healthy for you, relative to smoking it. As with any marketing, including paid influencers on social media doing tricks, always be skeptical of information intending to drive product sales.
What about vaping cannabis?
Though this page focuses on vaping tobacco products, we would be remiss not to acknowledge that youth also vape cannabis products – either the ground plant itself, waxes often referred to as dabs, or THC and CBD oils. We’re not going to go Reefer Madness on you, but we do hope to share reasons why you should consider staving off use during your teen years.
Yes, cannabis, also known and marijuana, is legal in California and is used recreationally. And yes, CBD can have medicinal benefits. But there are reasons why it's illegal for anyone under age 21 to use cannabis recreationally.
Back to the developing teen brain, much research indicates that marijuana can get in the way of normal brain development, causing brain circuits to wire less optimally. Delaying experimentation and use gives you the best opportunity to have optimal brain functioning and to avoid negative unintended consequences of use.
There is also emerging evidence showing an increased risk of psychosis with frequent use of high potency cannabis. Consider reading these article: Daily Marijuana Use And Highly Potent Weed Linked To Psychosis (NPR, published 3/19/19), & Surgeon General Sounds Alarm On Risk Of Marijuana Addiction And Harm (NPR, published 8/29/19).
There is incredible variability in how people react to THC, especially given today’s higher potency products. While you might know a friend who uses daily and seems to be functioning just fine, someone else could have a completely different experience with minimal use. In the short term, some stronger varieties can make you physically ill and/or delusional to the point of needing medical care.
Experts agree — stave off use at least until you’re 21. (Sources: NIDA, NIH, The CDC, Scientific American)
For South Bay teens - The Pass On It project
It might seem at times like "EVERYONE is vaping!" But the truth is, teens throughout the South Bay have shared with the Pass On It project their reasons for choosing not to succumb to vape culture and peer pressure. Check out some of their top ten reasons by clicking on the button below. For additional blogs from South Bay teens sharing why they choose to say "I'll pass," when it comes to the things that hold them back, like vaping and drinking alcohol, visit the SBFC Teen Blog page.
For parents and educators
For more information, including a list of trending articles and prevention resources, please click on the button below:
Thank you for visiting our vaping prevention page - one last thing…
The focus of this page is vaping, but the truth is that delaying substance use of any kind — nicotine, marijuana, alcohol, drugs — gives you the best opportunity to have optimal brain functioning and to avoid negative unintended consequences of use. If you’re still skeptical that vaping chemicals, nicotine or cannabis could cause you harm or a dependency, consider this: your teen years are the time to maximize your capacity to navigate complex situations and build brainpower. Why minimize the intellectual and social stimulation to which your brain is perfectly tuned?
We understand that there could be many answers to the question posed above. The teen years are incredibly tumultuous and often confusing. A high percentage of teens experience anxiety, stress, excessive pressure to perform, difficulties with learning and focus, grief… The list is as long as the options for trying to self-medicate.
If you are experiencing any overwhelming emotions or frustrations, know that you are absolutely not alone. We urge you to reach out to school counselor or an adult on campus, and to share your experience with your parent/caregiver. There are amazing people and resources in our South Bay community to help you. It will get better.
More Youth Wellness Resources