What You Can Do to Protect Youth From the Harms of Vaping

At a glance

As students go back to school, it's the perfect time for parents and educators to teach them about the dangers of vaping.

Diverse group of teens studying outdoors.

The role of parents and educators

Parents and educators—including teachers, administrators, and coaches—can play an important role in protecting youth from e-cigarettes, also known as vapes. As students go back to school, it's the perfect time to educate them about the dangers of vaping.

E-cigarettes are electronic devices that heat a liquid and produce an aerosol, or a mix of small particles in the air. This aerosol is breathed into the lungs of the person using the device. E-cigarette aerosol can contain harmful and potentially harmful substances. While use of e-cigarettes is unsafe for everyone, this is especially true for kids, teens, and young adults.

E-cigarettes, or vapes, are known by many different names. They are also called "e-cigs," "e-hookahs," "mods," "vape pens," "tank systems," and "electronic nicotine delivery systems (ENDS)." E-cigarettes come in many shapes and sizes. Some are made to be recharged, some to be refilled, and some to be thrown away (disposable).

E-cigarette use among youth

E-cigarettes are the most commonly used tobacco product among U.S. middle and high school students.

  • In 2022, about 1 in 10 or 2.55 million U.S. middle and high school students used e-cigarettes at least once in the past 30 days
  • This includes 3.3% of middle school students and 14.1% of high school students.

Disposable e-cigarettes are the most commonly used device type among U.S. middle and high school students who vape. In addition, nearly 85% of middle and high school students who used e-cigarettes reported using flavored e-cigarettes. Many e-cigarettes come in kid-friendly flavors—like candy, desserts, other sweets, mint, and menthol. This makes them more appealing to youth.

  • Among middle and high school students who currently used any type of flavored e-cigarette in 2022, the most commonly used flavors were fruit (69.1%), candy, desserts, or other sweets (38.3%), mint (29.4%), and menthol (26.6%).
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In 2022, 1 in 10 youth used e-cigarettes in the past 30 days.

Health risks of vaping for youth

Vaping can have health risks for youth. Most vapes have nicotine in them, which is highly addictive. Nicotine use in adolescence:

  • Can harm brain development, which continues until about age 25.
  • Can impact attention, learning, mood, and impulse control.
  • May increase risk for future addiction to other drugs.

Not only can nicotine in e-cigarettes pose health risks for youth, but youth who vape may also be more likely to go on to use regular cigarettes.

In addition to nicotine, e-cigarette aerosol can contain other harmful and potentially harmful substances. These substances include:

  • Cancer-causing chemicals.
  • Volatile organic compounds.
  • Ultrafine particles.
  • Flavorings that have been linked to lung disease.
  • Heavy metals such as nickel, tin, and lead.

Nicotine addiction can be a source of stress

When a person is dependent on (or is addicted to) nicotine and stops using it, their body and brain must get used to not having nicotine. This can result in temporary symptoms of nicotine withdrawal. People might keep using tobacco products, like vapes, to try to make these symptoms feel better. Nicotine withdrawal symptoms include:

  • Irritability.
  • Restlessness.
  • Feeling anxious or depressed.
  • Trouble sleeping.
  • Problems concentrating.
  • Craving nicotine.

Youth might turn to vaping to try to deal with stress or anxiety. This can create a cycle of nicotine addiction, which can also be a source of stress.

Youth vaping and cigarette use have also been linked to mental health symptoms, such as depression.

Helping youth quit vaping

Most students who use tobacco products want to quit and have attempted to do so. This includes e-cigarettes. In 2020, nearly 2 in 3 middle and high school students who used e-cigarettes reported wanting to quit. Similarly, about 2 in 3 reported trying to quit in the last year.

Youth who vape need support and help when trying to quit. Talking to youth and connecting them with quitting resources is a great way to help.

What parents and educators can do to reduce vaping among youth

Parents and educators can play an important role in protecting youth from the risks of vaping. Sometimes, it's hard to know what to do to help youth avoid or quit vaping. Engaging youth and starting a discussion can help. Here are some suggestions.

Parents can:

  • Set a good example by being tobacco-free.
  • Try to ensure your child is not exposed to the secondhand smoke or aerosol from any tobacco products, including e-cigarettes.
  • Talk to your child about why vaping is harmful for them. It's never too late to have that talk.
  • Let your child know you want them to stay away from all tobacco products, including e-cigarettes, because they are not safe for them.
  • Reach out to your child's health care provider for quitting resources.

Educators are an important source of health information for students. You can help students:

  • Develop healthy skills for addressing stress and anxiety.
  • Recognize and resist the social pressure to vape.
  • Understand the risks of vaping.
  • Encourage students to talk with their doctor or school nurse and connect with support services.

Educators can empower students to quit vaping and support them to live free from nicotine addiction.

Resources to help students reject vaping.

Parents and educators can use the resources below to talk to youth about the dangers of vaping and how to quit.

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Parents and educators can play an important role in protecting youth from the risks of vaping.