It can be hard to spot a vape your teen is hiding, because they come in all kinds of shapes and colors. Vapes can range from large, customizable devices (often called “mods”) to pen-like devices that charge using a USB port, to small inexpensive disposables. But there are some basics that stay the same: Vapes generally consist of a battery, a heating element, a mouthpiece, and a tank or cartridge for e-liquid (also known as “vape juice”). No matter what shape the device is, or what is in the juice being vaped, every vape comes with health risks.
Chemicals, plain and simple. And most of these lab-synthesized ingredients have been linked to vaping-related health harms. Here are some chemicals that have been found in vape juice or vapor to be aware of:
These basic ingredients are found in virtually all vape juice. They are safe to use as food additives, cosmetics, and other consumer products. But inhaling them can harm the delicate immune system of our lungs, and leave people who vape more vulnerable to viruses.3
Mint, fruit, candy, even tobacco… ALL vapes get their flavoring from chemicals. Even with new laws that ban flavors on vapes with refillable cartridges, there are still dangerous options on the market—like cancer-causing pulegone found in mint flavors,9 and vanillin, which can inflame airways and lungs.10
Toxic metal particles, like lead and aluminum, have been found in vape juice2 and vapor.11 Lead is a neurotoxin that can cause permanent brain damage4, and is unsafe in any amount.5
You probably know formaldehyde as the chemical that’s used to preserve dead bodies. It’s a chemical reaction that happens when vape juice is heated up, which means people who vape breathe it in. Breathing formaldehyde can lead to serious respiratory issues, like bronchitis or pneumonia.6
Many vapes are nicotine-delivery devices. The nicotine salts that some vapes use are designed to mask how much nicotine is being inhaled. A smooth drag hides the fact that ONE vape pod can have as much nicotine as an ENTIRE pack of cigarettes.13 This high level of nicotine puts teens at high risk for addiction.
For people who are not currently using tobacco products, vaping is a risky habit
to take up. Vaping can cause nicotine addiction and it can take many attempts
to successfully quit vaping. Teenagers and pregnant women are at especially high
risk for the harm caused by chemicals
The truth is, it’s really hard to know. Every parent should stay vigilant though, because almost half of Nevada’s high schoolers have tried vaping.8 Here are some red flags to look out for:
Change in mood:
Because nicotine addiction can cause mood swings, teens may be unusually irritable, short-tempered, or exhibiting impulsive or risk-taking behavior.12
problems at school:
Nicotine can affect brain development, memory and learning.12 If your child is struggling more than usual at school, vaping is one possible reason.
These “symptoms” might sound like teens just being teens, but if you see a lot of these come on at once, it might be time to take a closer look. So if you see these signs, or find devices you don’t recognize, it’s definitely time for a talk.
Yes, teen vaping rates in Nevada are extremely high. Almost half of the teens in our state have already tried vaping, and nearly 1 in 4 high schoolers have vaped in the past month. Talking to your teen about the risks of vaping makes them less likely to ever start vaping. The high nicotine content in vapes means addiction can happen quickly, so it’s important to take action right away if you suspect your teen is vaping.
U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. E-Cigarette Use Among Youth and Young Adults. A Report of the Surgeon General. Atlanta, GA: U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, National Center for Chronic Disease Prevention and Health Promotion, Office on Smoking and Health, 2016.
Hess CA, Olmedo P, Navas-Acien A, Goessler W, Cohen JE, Rule AM. E-cigarettes as a source of toxic and potentially carcinogenic metals. Environ Res. 2017;152:221-225. doi:10.1016/j.envres.2016.09.026
Madison, MC, Landers, CT, Gu, B, et al. Electronic cigarettes disrupt lung lipid homeostasis and innate immunity independent of nicotine. Updated February 24, 2020. Accessed June 4, 2020. Journal of Clinical Investigation. 2019;129(10):4290-4304.
Garza A, Vega R, Soto E. Cellular mechanisms of lead neurotoxicity. Medical science monitor : international medical journal of experimental and clinical research. 2006;12(3):RA57.
Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Blood Lead Levels in Children. https://www.cdc.gov/nceh/lead/prevention/blood-lead-levels.htm. Updated May 28, 2020. Accessed June 4, 2020.
Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Toxic Substances Portal - Formaldehyde. https://www.atsdr.cdc.gov/mmg/mmg.asp?id=216&tid=39. Updated October 21, 2014. Accessed June 4, 2020.
Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Electronic Cigarettes. https://www.cdc.gov/tobacco/basic_information/e-cigarettes/index.htm. Updated February 24, 2020. Accessed June 4, 2020.
Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. 2019 Nevada Youth Risk Behavior Survey. https://www.unr.edu/public-health/research-activities/nevada-youth-risk-behavior-survey. Published 2020. Accessed June 4, 2020.
Jabba SV, Jordt SE. Risk Analysis for the Carcinogen Pulegone in Mint- and Menthol-Flavored e-Cigarettes and Smokeless Tobacco Products [published online ahead of print, 2019 Sep 16]. JAMA Intern Med. 2019;179(12):1721-1723. doi:10.1001/jamainternmed.2019.3649
Erythropel HC, Jabba SV, Dewinter TM, et al. Formation of flavorant–propylene Glycol Adducts With Novel Toxicological Properties in Chemically Unstable E-Cigarette Liquids. Nicotine & Tobacco Research. 2018; 21(9):1248-1258. doi:10.1093/ntr/nty192
Olmedo P, Goessler W, Tanda S, et al. Metal Concentrations in e-Cigarette Liquid and Aerosol Samples: The Contribution of Metallic Coils. Environ Health Perspect. 2018;126(2):027010. Published 2018 Feb 21. doi:10.1289/EHP2175
National Center for Chronic Disease Prevention and Health Promotion (US) Office on Smoking and Health. E-Cigarette Use Among Youth and Young Adults: A Report of the Surgeon General [Internet]. Atlanta (GA): Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (US); 2016. Available from: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/books/NBK538680/
Willett JG, Bennett M, Hair EC, et alRecognition, use and perceptions of JUUL among youth and young adults. Tobacco Control 2019;28:115-116.