Tweens Teens & Twenties

What Parents Might Not Know About Vaping

By Tanni Haas, Ph.D. | Contributor

August is National Wellness Month, a great occasion to consider some of the basic questions parents have about vaping, like how many kids actually do it and whether or not it’s something they should be concerned about. For that reason, I’ve prepared a brief fact sheet based on the latest scientific research that answers the most common questions parents ask themselves.  


Statistics estimate twenty percent (1 in 5) of all high school students across the U.S. vape regularly. For middle school students, that number is 5% (1 in 20). Those figures have increased dramatically over the past few years. In 2011, only 1.5% of high school students and less than 1% of middle school students vaped regularly. Put differently: more and more kids are starting to vape, and they are doing so at an alarmingly younger age.  


Kids prefer either flavored vaping liquids with nicotine or marijuana.  Many vaping products contain a lot of nicotine, including some pods that have as much nicotine as one full pack of regular cigarettes. Kids are especially attracted to vaping liquids that taste like alcoholic drinks, chocolate, fruit, menthol, and sweets. 

When and Where:

In a word, everywhere and any time they can get away with it. They do it at school – in bathrooms, in hallways, even during class. Many kids admit to exhaling the vapor into their shirts or doing it when the teacher isn’t looking. They also do it at parties where they try each other’s vaping devices and liquids. They host so-called “cloud competitions” where they demonstrate and video each other’s vaping tricks, like blowing smoke rings or creating funnels of smoke that look like tornadoes, and then upload videos to social media, especially YouTube.


The top three reasons kids vape are because 1) it’s cool, 2) they’re bored, and 3) they think it’s completely safe. When asked why they vape, most kids say because it’s considered cool among their friends. They enjoy entertaining their friends with tricks and watching other kids perform tricks on social media. They also do it to escape from boredom: they do it when they can’t come up with anything better to do, just like constantly and mindlessly fidgeting with their phones and checking their texts and social media. Finally, they think it’s harmless and very different from smoking cancer-causing regular cigarettes. More than 70% of middle and high school students have seen online and print advertising making that claim.  

What Effect:

Contrary to what kids believe, all vaping devices and liquids are bad for their health, especially those that contain nicotine. Nicotine is highly addictive and negatively impacts kids’ ability to focus and learn. It also affects their mood and impulse control. Vaping increases kids’ heart rate and blood pressure, causes the same kind of lung irritation like regular cigarettes, and can lead to coughing, wheezing, and shortness of breath. Kids who vape are four times more likely than those who don’t vape to start smoking regular cigarettes. Instead of being a substitute for smoking, as many people think, vaping can actually lead kids to start smoking. Finally, many vaping devices are of poor quality. There have been numerous incidents of exploding devices that have caused burns and other injuries.   


Tanni Haas, Ph.D. is a Professor in the Department of Communication Arts, Sciences, and Disorders at the City University of New York – Brooklyn College.

Editor’s Note: This content is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment, and does not constitute medical or other professional advice.

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