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Teens at risk from surge in addictive tobacco vaping

Teenage girl vaping.

In this article, you’ll find answers to questions like:

1. Why are teens so tempted?
2. What are the health impacts?
3. How can I talk to my teen about it?

Youth vaping, or e-cigarette use, has increased dramatically across the country and in Florida, according to the Florida Department of Health’s Tobacco Free Florida website. In 2018, about 25 percent of Florida high school students reported using electronic vaping, a 58-percent increase from 2017!

Only 4 percent of vaping users in Florida are adults, so the prevalence of teen vaping is particularly alarming. Why are so many teens trying it? And what should parents know about the dangers?


Instead of inhaling traditional tobacco smoke, e-cigarette users inhale vapor from a battery-operated device that heats the liquid in a cartridge. Many of the devices resemble pens, flash drives or even asthma inhalers and are promoted as a way to help people stop smoking. Many teens think the cartridges are healthier and less addictive, but that is not the case.  

Students sometimes vape as a coping tool because it’s easy to buy in grocery stores, convenience stores, online, peer to peer, smoke shops near schools, fairgrounds, the mall — everywhere — say prevention professionals at Hanley Foundation in West Palm Beach.

While the age requirement in stores is 18, IDs are not always required when teens order cartridges online, according to HealthyChildren.org, from the American Academy of Pediatrics.

Pop culture is a major influence on the explosion in popularity, says Diamond Howard, regional prevention coordinator at Hanley.

“Celebrities make vaping look cool or that you always need to use it,” he says. “It’s often shown on social media, through music videos, movies and reality television. Award shows like the Oscars will show celebrities on the red carpet using vapes.”


Not only does pop culture promote vaping, it also reveals virtually undetectable ways of using other drugs. Many students have learned that vaping pens can make drugs odorless.

Vaping tobacco can be addictive because of its negative impacts on the developing brain. It can lead to more impulsive behaviors as it impairs memory, decision making and problem solving, Howard says.

“It can lead to panic attacks, depression, increased anxiety and other mental health problems,” he says. “It impairs your cognitive function in the same way that alcohol does by affecting alertness, coordination, concentration and reaction time,” he says.


Before approaching your teen, you should learn the facts, such as the correct terminology, from credible sources. You can start with the U.S. Surgeon General’s website and a tip sheet from U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

“Using the correct terms can help you grasp your teen’s attention,” Howard says. “Parents should avoid using scare tactics or criticism and encourage an open dialogue. Be patient and ready to listen.” 


Diamond Howard, regional prevention coordinator, Hanley Foundation
• Florida Department of Health’s Tobacco Free Florida
U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention
Office of the Surgeon General


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