Vaping and Teen Health – What You Need to Know

Colorado teens are vaping more than all other teens across the country, nearly double the national average according to the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment, “Kids as young as middle school age are vaping and up to 30% of high school seniors are using vape products. It’s a big deal in Colorado and something we want to get on top of,” says Dr. Tista Ghosh, interim chief medical officer for the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment.

Photo of different vaping devices
Different types of vaping devices

There are hundreds of different vape products, which may include a range of ingredients in addition to nicotine including chemical additives, flavorings, and THC – the active ingredient in marijuana. Vaping devices come in many shapes, sizes, and colors, “Vaping is using an electronic device, vape pen, or another device that heats up a liquid and generates a water vapor,” Dr. Ghosh explains.

While it’s water vapor that is emitted from vaping devices, instead of smoke, it’s not harmless, ““A lot of these products have chemicals in them, chemicals that can potentially harm you, and almost all of them contain nicotine – the addictive substance in tobacco products, like regular cigarettes,” says Dr. Ghosh

Even though it’s not legal to buy vape products until 18, 45% of high school students say they have experimented with vaping and a quarter are current users. The U.S. Food and Drug Administration has called it an epidemic.

Marketers are targeting teens and portraying vaping as a healthier option when compared to traditional cigarettes, but Dr. Ghosh says that is not the case, “Vaping still allows people to inhale nicotine and we know that is very addictive. When your brain is developing nicotine can interrupt your brain cells and really cause impulse control issues, impair the ability to learn, mood disorders, it’s very harmful to the developing brain.”

JUUL devices and cartridges, one of the more popular vaping options among teens, contains the same about of nicotine as an entire pack of cigarettes.

The Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment says there’s a lot of evidence that shows that kids who vape end up smoking regular cigarettes later in life, “We don’t want to re-hook an entire generation onto cigarettes when we did such a great job bringing smoking rates down,” adds Dr. Ghosh.

What can a parent do if they catch a teen vaping? Dr. Ghosh suggests that you, “Educate yourself and get the facts, arm yourself with information, and talk to your teen in a non-judgmental way. Find out if they just tried it once or if it’s something they’re addicted to. If they’re addicted, get them help.”

The free Colorado Quitline has expanded its age range to start at 12. Parents can call and get the help needed for their child: 1-800-QUIT-NOW.

The Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment also sponsors the website, TobaccoFreeCO.org which is a great resource for information and tips on talking to teens.