Vaping and long-term lung damage in teens

Vaping addiction

The good news: Cigarette smoking among teenagers has decreased over the past few years.  The bad news: Over the same amount of time, the use of electronic cigarettes by teenagers has increased dramatically, growing to almost epidemic proportions.  According to the Center for Disease Control (CDC,) the use of e-cigarettes among teenagers has risen significantly from 2017 to 2018.  In Kentucky, the law (KRS 438.311) requires that e-cigarettes users be at least 18 years old to purchase or accept the use of the devices.  Additionally, KRS 438.350 allows the devices to be confiscated by law enforcement if found on someone under the age of 18.


Young people look at vaping devices as relatively harmless, but nothing could be further from the truth.  There are significant dangers in vaping, dangers that can pose real and long-lasting health hazards.  Teen users of these vaping devices do not think of these hazards when they are vaping. 


While the e-cigarettes are touted by their makers as a healthier alternative to traditional cigarettes and the flavor names sound harmless – cotton candy, mango, peppermint – the nicotine salts that are added to these flavored oils can be addictive and hazardous to the health of the user.  Each e-pod gives off approximately 200 puffs, but often teenagers will go through several e-pods per day, giving them a nicotine buzz.  Besides the flavors, the oils contain enough nicotine salts to equal one full pack of traditional cigarettes.  Nicotine is known to elevate the heart rate and raise blood pressure.  Teens can easily become addicted to vaping.


Aside from the nicotine in the flavored e-pods, other chemicals are added to these devices.  Newsweek Magazine recently reported that teens who vape regularly are exposed to extremely high levels of dangerous and poisonous chemicals that include acrylonitrile, acrolein, propylene oxide, acrylamide and crotonaldehyde.  One of these chemicals, acrylonitrile, is used in the production of plastics, adhesives and synthetic rubber.  In addition to these chemicals, formaldehyde and harmful trace metals, such as nickel, chromium, cadmium, tin, aluminum and lead – all potential cancer-causing agents – have also been found in many of the vaping devices.


Recently, over 200 cases of acute lung damage, ranging from a chronic cough and bronchitis to permanent lung damage and even death, have been reported by the Center for Disease Control in teenagers and young people.  While the common denominator in these cases are the use of e-cigarettes, doctors and scientists are studying these cases, trying to discover if there is a particular chemical in the vaping pod that is causing these cases of lung damage.


“This is nothing to take lightly,” said Renée Smith, Health Services Director for Rowan County Schools.  “Parents and teens alike need to understand that these young people who are being hospitalized with lung damage from vaping are being placed in intensive care and, many times, on ventilators.  These e-cigarettes pose a health risk, especially to teens, because they do not truly grasp the long-term effects that these devices can pose.”


It is important for parents to talk to their teens about vaping and its dangers.  Below are some ways parents can speak to their teens about the dangers of vaping.


  • Ask them what they know about and the effects that it can have on their bodies.  Peer pressure or being one of the group often plays a role in a teenager picking up and using a vaping device.


  • Explain how dangerous nicotine can be and how easy it is to inhale too much nicotine from one of these nicotine-filled pods.  Also talk to them about the inherent dangers of the chemicals that make up the e-cigarette pods.


  • Sit down with your teens to research e-cigarettes.  If your teen is using e-cigarettes, help him/her find ways to stop vaping.  If necessary, get the advice of your family doctor on ways to stop vaping.


For more information about vaping and its dangers, check out these websites:


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