It’s hard to think of a worse way for a teenager to spend his free time than vaping, a new study suggests.
Vaping — inhaling vapor from a device that heats a liquid — is a rising form of substance abuse among teenagers.
While some vaping devices aren’t dangerous, others contain large amounts of nicotine and other addictive chemicals.
Teens are particularly at risk, as their brains are still developing and an early nicotine addiction can lead to lifelong problems with tobacco.
“They start with what they think are these harmless e-cigarettes and all of a sudden a year or two goes by and they’re smoking cigarettes and getting hooked on full-strength, regular nicotine,” said Dr. Len Horovitz, a pulmonary specialist at Lenox Hill Hospital in New York City.
“It’s just a bad idea. I don’t know why they do it.”
There’s a serious anti-smoking movement among teenagers — and the teens understand the risks of tobacco. But a new study suggests that they’re not thinking about the consequences of using e-cigarettes until it’s too late.
The study, which was published last Friday in the journal Pediatrics , found that teenagers who thought they would definitely not smoke cigarettes in the future were still likely to start vaping.
“The results showed that teens who used e-cigarettes were more likely to say they would smoke cigarettes in the future and less likely to say they would definitely not smoke,” said study author Michelle D. Sexton, of the University of Southern California.
“Teens may be experimenting with e-cigarettes without understanding that nicotine can be addictive.”
E-cigarettes contain nicotine, but the amount decreases over time. That’s part of the appeal: People who want to quit smoking use them to slowly reduce their intake of nicotine.
“That’s what the manufacturers say,” Horovitz said.
“But you’re not gonna get a nicotine fix if you’re vaping. I don’t think it’s gonna be any help for nicotine addiction.”
Nicotine in large doses can be addictive
Nicotine in high doses can be dangerous. A 2015 study found that just one hit off an e-cigarette was enough to cause immediate heart palpitations in some people.
The best way to quit smoking is to talk to your doctor. Nicotine replacement therapies like patches and gum can be helpful, while other medicines are more powerful but have more potential side effects.
There’s no shortage of advice online, either.
“People can find self-help resources through the American Cancer Society, the American Lung Association and the CDC,” said Edward Anselm, of the University of California, Los Angeles, who co-authored the Pediatrics study.
“The more research you do and the more you learn about quitting, the more likely you are to quit.”
Teens are not just being misled about the potential benefits of vaping, they’re not thinking about the risks either.
“Teens may get into e-cigarettes without understanding that nicotine can be addictive,” Sexton said.
“Teens who use e-cigarettes may be setting themselves up to try regular cigarettes in the future.”
If you’re a teenager who’s been vaping, it’s not too late to quit. Get help and avoid a lifetime of nicotine addiction.
“The key is to be aware and learn as much about it as you can,” Anselm said.
“If you’re older and have started vaping, you still can quit. The sooner the better.”