Is Vaping Safe for Our Kids?

One of the challenges with being a parent in today’s constantly changing environment is keeping up with the emerging teenage trends that may, or may not, be safe.  The internet and popular apps are, of course, an example of that.  Vaping is another.  If you are like me, a non-smoker, vaping was something of a mystery.  However, it’s becoming popular among teens.  According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, e-cigarette usage among middle- and high-schoolers tripled between 2013 and 2014. Usage among high-schoolers was 13.4% in 2014.[1]  Even though you’re not supposed to be able to purchase the vape pens or liquids if you are under 18 years of age.

A little research shows that vaping is accomplished using an e-cigarette or “vape pen”, an electronic device that atomizes liquids and makes the vapor “mist” available for inhaling. Users load a liquid solution containing their drug of choice into the device, turn it on, and inhale.  It’s supposed to be a safer alternative to smoking cigarettes, eliminating cancer-causing chemicals. 

As parents, we need to talk to our middle-schoolers and teens about vaping, as they’re probably being told by their peers that vaping is safe. So is it safe? It depends, partly, on what is being “vaped”.  Unfortunately, it is becoming a popular way to consume a wide range of dangerous new synthetic drugs including Bath Salts, hash oil, psychedelics and synthetic marijuana – often called Spice or K2.[2]  These synthetic drugs mimic other drugs in many ways, but can have severe side-effects, too.  There is no easy way for parents or law enforcement to tell what substance is being vaped—it requires a lab analysis.  So people may ingest drugs out in the open. 

Another issue is that teens may be at increased risk of smoking cigarettes when they’ve been vaping.  According to a recent survey of high school students, “among nonsmoking students who had vaped when they took an initial survey, 20% said they had smoked their first regular cigarette by the time they took the survey again one year later. Among nonsmokers who hadn't used e-cigarettes when they took the first survey, 6% had tried regular cigarettes a year later.”[3]

Finally, even vaping substances that do not contain nicotine or synthetic drugs may still harm the lungs.  One commonly used e-cigarette solvent, when heated, tansformed into carbonyls, containing compounds that are carcinogenic.  Studies have also found that vaping may result in inflammation and lung damage.[4]