Think Vaping Is Harmless? What You Need to Know

Your kid may believe vaping is harmless vapor water, but what do you believe? It’s time to learn the truth about how vaping affects teens.

Vaping is an epidemic among teenagers, with 50% of Michigan students reporting that they’ve tried vaping — and 1 in 5 say they vape on a regular basis, according to information from the State of Michigan. But parents may not fully grasp the health risks their kids face from vaping, instead believing vaping is harmless.

In most cases, vaping delivers flavored nicotine through a vape pen, and nearly 85% of youth currently vaping use a flavor other than tobacco, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. When kids vape, they’re choosing products with appealing flavors of fruit, candy, desserts and sweets.

In 2019, Michigan became the first state to ban flavored vaping products. Late in 2021, the Michigan Department of Health and Human Services pulled back rules regarding this ban. What this means is today, vape pens — in flavors that are attractive to kids and teens — are still on the market and available for purchase in stores across metro Detroit.

Easy availability is a problem, says Grenaé D. Dudley, Ph.D., President and CEO of The Youth Connection in Detroit. “What’s happening is kids are getting ahold of vapes by buying them in stores, by asking an adult to buy them or even from adults in their home. They are not supposed to be sold to youth under the age of 21,” Dudley says.

Meanwhile, says Dudley, schools are “collecting vape pens left and right” from kids who may not be fully aware of the risks and who believe vaping is harmless.

Negative effects of vaping

Because flavored vape products are still widely available both in stores and online, parents should take some time to educate themselves about the harmful effects of vaping.

“We perceive vaping to be harmless because it’s advertised as less harmful than other things, like cigarettes. That’s the same rationale that has been used with opioids, so we really want to educate the public, educate families and kids about the harms,” says Dudley.

While many believe vaping is harmless, experts say the opposite is true. “One vape pen with nicotine in it is the equivalent of smoking one pack of cigarettes,” Dudley says.

Whether or not vapes contain nicotine, they can contain harmful chemicals — like benzene, acetone, formaldehyde, nickel, lead and cadmium — that kids breathe directly into their lungs, leading to the very same issues that smokers tend to have, like lung disease and COPD. Dudley reminds parents of the Grosse Pointe teen who underwent a double lung transplant in 2019 due to vaping. “He was fortunate because he had resources and was able to get two lungs, but what happens to kids in the hood? What happens when vape pens explode?”

Even without extreme effects, vaping can be damaging and counterproductive to your teen, Dudley says.

“We do know that e-cigarettes have an impact on brain development, learning, mood and impulse control, which amplifies what our kids are already experiencing as teens,” she says. “This impacts their ability to concentrate and pay attention in school. Parents don’t always know the side effects and impacts of vaping.”

What parents need to know

Instead of assuming that their child isn’t vaping, parents should take the time to ask. “Ask your kids. Listen to them,” Dudley suggests. If it turns out that your kid is vaping, ask why.

“One of the things we have to be aware of is why. When we begin to see increases in anxiety and depression, we know that there is the desire to reach out to what takes it away. What soothes? Smoking, vaping, alcohol and drugs,” says Dudley.

Just like adults, kids look for ways to deal with stress — whether that comes from school, home or social media. “It’s one thing to get you off the drug, but another thing to deal with the root cause. We have to make sure we are working on those issues, too,” she adds.

The biggest takeaway? Vaping is harmful.

“As adults, we can make the decision not to smoke around our kids and not buy for our kids,” says Dudley. “Don’t leave vape pens unattended because there’s a good chance your kid will get ahold of it. If you make that choice, think about how it impacts your family. Make healthy decisions.”

Content sponsored by Detroit Wayne Integrated Health Network. Visit dwihn.org.

Claire Charlton
Claire Charlton
An enthusiastic storyteller, Claire Charlton focuses on delivering top client service as a content editor for Metro Parent. In her 20+ years of experience, she has written extensively on a variety of topics and is keen on new tech and podcast hosting. Claire has two grown kids and loves to read, run, camp, cycle and travel.

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