There’s so much information swirling around right now about e-cigarettes and 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 evidence-based and personal reasons to choose to avoid vaping and other tobacco products during your teen years. At the end of the page you’ll find reasons that many South Bay youth have shared about why they say, "I'll pass," when it comes to vaping. 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 and peer pressure because they know the real facts. This page is also for those teens considering quitting.
National Research & Resources
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What is an E-Cigarette or Vape Device?
There’s a large 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 simplistic 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 Centers 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.
Check out this short video if you want more info on the history of these devices.
Three important 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 with 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).
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.
What exactly is in e-cigarette aerosol?
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 (see below)
More details about e-Cigarette chemicals and particles
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 a victim of tobacco industry advertising or peer pressure
Although regulations are now in place to ensure that the real health risks of tobacco are conveyed, and its popularity has decreased as a result, there seems to be a new industry message that focuses on marketing “vape culture”. 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 Refer 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 this article: Daily Marijuana Use And Highly Potent Weed Linked To Psychosis (NPR, published 3/19/19)
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
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.
Many South Bay Teens Say, "I'll Pass" When It Comes to Vaping and Tobacco
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.
Still Need More Reasons to Say, "I'll Pass"? Check Out These FAQs
We have gathered facts and information from reputable sources about tobacco and vaping. We hope you might choose topics of interest and check-out some of the links.
Q: How does tobacco deliver its effects? A: It's complex.
Q: Can smoking affect my looks? A: Yes.
“Smoking chronically deprives the skin of oxygen and nutrients. So some smokers appear pale, while others develop uneven coloring. These changes can begin at a young age”
Q. Can tobacco affect my brain in the longterm? A: Yes.
Q: What does it really do to your health? A: It has numerous adverse and undeniable consequences.
Q: What about cancer in particular? A: It's undisputed that tobacco can increase the likelihood of the occurrence of many different types of cancer.
Q: Is it really addictive? A: Yes.
Q: Vaping and e-cigarettes are different though, right? A: Not in enough ways, and even those that claim to be tobacco free may have Nicotene and numerous dangerous chemicals.
"There is a lot of concern by the public health community that e-cigarettes may be recruiting a whole new group of people who never smoked cigarettes," Jessica Barrington-Trimis of the University of Southern California in Los Angeles
Q: What stories do smokers want to share? A: Many.
Q. Is there help if I'm ready to quit? A: Absolutely.
Download a free Quit Guide mobile app, make your own quite plan, find social support, receive free texts, and call 1-800-QUIT-NOW to access free support. Material is available in Spanish and Asian languages (source: CDC.gov Tobacco Campaign). Or click on the button below:
More Youth Wellness Resources