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teens vaping in the park.

As the youth e-cigarette epidemic continues to trend, new generations are positioned for a lifetime of nicotine addiction. Approximately 2.55 million United States middle- and high-school students reported current e-cigarette use in 2022. New data reveals that nearly 800,000 teens vaped for the first time in the past year. When it comes to youth vaping, a critical time-out is needed to clear the air and determine fact from fiction.

Time for a Time-out

Flavored Vapor

Common Belief: Only flavored water vapor is inhaled when vaping. Vaping isn’t addictive.

Fact or Fiction? Fiction. Nicotine is usually in vaping cartridges. Nicotine is very addictive.

Vaping Brain

Common Belief: If you are a teen, vaping can have damaging effects on the brain.

Fact or Fiction? Fact. Adolescent brains are still developing and exposure to nicotine during this time could have effects on brain functioning and mental health. Nicotine is known to be addictive, alter brain chemistry, and impact mood and behavior.

Stress Release

Common Belief: Vaping helps relieve stress and anxiety.

Fact or Fiction? Fiction. Relying on vaping as a coping mechanism for stress and anxiety is not beneficial. It does not address the underlying causes, can lead to a cycle of dependency on nicotine, and cause other potential health issues.

Nicotine Free

Common Belief: Nicotine-free devices are safe and do not cause harm to the user.

Fact or Fiction? Fiction. While nicotine-free e-juice and pens do not contain nicotine, they are not completely risk-free. Inhaling any foreign substances—such as flavorings and other chemicals—into the lungs carries potential risk, especially for people who already have respiratory conditions (e.g., asthma). Moreover, the long-term effects of inhaling some of these ingredients are still not fully understood.

Vape/Smoke Pipeline

Common Belief: Young people who vape are three times as likely to take up smoking cigarettes.

Fact or Fiction? Fact. Some people may end up using both traditional cigarettes and vaping devices. Dual use could be due to different issues, but some include the higher cost of vaping devices and lack of availability of some devices.

Great American Smokeout

Annually in November, smokers across the country join the Great American Smokeout and start a journey to quitting. The Alabama Cooperative Extension System, similarly, urges individuals to take a time-out to learn the facts regarding vaping. In order to make informed decisions regarding their health, Alabama Extension provides available publications and programming to assist in these efforts.

Escape Vapes is a signature program that can be scheduled for school youth in grades five through 12.  It also has an adult program component that focuses on youth vaping awareness for parents/caregivers, educators, and youth leaders. To learn more about this topic or to schedule a program, visit www.aces.edu or contact your local Extension office.