What is “vaping” and why are so many Ridgefield teens doing it?

Electronic cigarettes, or vaping, is now the most used form of tobacco among youth in the United States. E-cigarettes are popular because they are easily available, easily concealable, and many adults are unfamiliar with them. This leads to a surprisingly high rate of use in places where adults are nearby, and even supervising, including schools.

E-cigarettes or electronic nicotine delivery systems, are battery-operated devices that people use to inhale an aerosol, which typically contains nicotine (though not always), flavorings, and other chemicals. In many e-cigarettes, puffing activates the battery-powered heating device, which vaporizes the liquid in the cartridge. The person then inhales the resulting aerosol or vapor.  E-cigarettes resemble pens or USB memory sticks. The most commonly used e-cigarette by teens is the Juul brand, which advertises as compact and discreet.

What is the problem with teens vaping?

Nicotine in any form is a highly addictive drug. Research suggests it can even prime the brain’s reward system, putting those who vape at risk for addiction to other drugs. Also, e-cigarettes include a variety of chemicals, including those added to e-liquids, and other chemicals produced during the heating/vaporizing process. A study of some e-cigarette products found the vapor contains known carcinogens and toxic chemicals. Teens are at greater risk of negative effects because the teen years are so critical for brain development. Young people who use nicotine products in any form, including e-cigarettes, are uniquely at risk for long-lasting effects. Nicotine also negatively affects the development of brain circuits that control attention and learning.

Thank you to the RHS Town Hall interns for their research on this topic, which contributed to this article.

For more about e-cigarettes, the CDC has information including a parent tip sheet: cdc.gov/features/ecigarettes-young-people/

For more information about the Ridgefield Prevention Council, visit our website www.ridgefieldpreventioncouncil.org and visit RPC’s Facebook page.