Teen vaping is out of control in the United States. The use of e-cigarettes among high school students, grew 900% between 2011 and 2015. And according to the CDC, in just 30 days of 2021, 2.06 million U.S. middle and high school students used e-cigarettes, many of which are young athletes.
Vaping has dangerous health risks and side effects due to nicotine and other chemicals that are inhaled. And as e-devices are relatively new and unregulated, there are many unknowns. Some people believe that nicotine can help athletes, but there is concern. It is even monitored by the World Anti-Doping Agency to detect patterns of misuse. Studies are inconclusive about possible benefits and don’t often take into consideration nicotine’s addictive nature and other chemicals involved. When vaping, a teenager inhales dangerous chemicals like formaldehyde, and heavy metals such as lead, into their lungs, which can cause short-term and possible long-term damage. The bottom line is vaping is harmful to a teen’s mental and physical wellbeing and can hurt their sports performance.
What is Vaping?
Vaping is a slang term for using an e-cigarette or e-device that emits vapor, not smoke. E-devices are electronic nicotine delivery systems, many of which are targeted to teens in forms that look nothing like cigarettes. E-devices heat nicotine (extracted from tobacco), flavorings, and other chemicals to create an aerosol that a person inhales. They can also be used to inhale marijuana.
E-devices come in many shapes and forms. They are known as e-cigarettes, e-cigs, cigalikes, e-hookahs, mods, vape pens, vapes, and tank systems to name a few. They come in all shapes and sizes, and can be easily disguised. Teens inhale through e-devices that look like pens, phone cases, smartwatches, soda cans, lipstick tubes, USB drives, Sharpies, and highlighters. There are even hoodies and backpacks made to hold vaping devices.
Teens are curious. They are busy growing up, learning, and exploring. They are trying to connect with friends and fit in. Many are testing new things, and often if one of the new things is smoking, they instead try vaping because they mistakenly believe that it is a healthier option. Both smoking and vaping are bad for athletes, but vaping is certainly made to look inviting.
Vaping is targeted toward the youth with cartridges that smell and taste good. In 2009 the U.S. Food and Drug Administration banned cigarettes flavored with anything but menthol to limit their appeal to kids. Now e-devices cartridges come in flavors like apple pie and bubblegum, and every fruity sweet flavor you can think, and teens are hooked. Many even mistakenly believe that inhaling flavored vapors is not that harmful.
Harmful to the Body and Mind
Vaping is bad for teens. A growing body of evidence shows that using e-cigarettes or vaping maybe even more dangerous than smoking cigarettes. The chemicals that are inhaled are highly addictive, lead to health issues and alter brain chemistry. Vapors can mess with immunity, and many of the ingredients are cancer-causing chemicals.
Young vapers are having troubles with chronic coughs, bloody sores in the mouth, fatigue, bronchitis, and heart issues. And though teens believe it can help them with anxiety, in the end, vaping changes brain chemistry and can make life more stressful. Addiction to e-cigarettes is hurting today’s youth, teen athletes included.
Athletes and Vaping
The many potential health risks associated with vaping can greatly impair an athlete’s ability to perform. Nicotine-addicted teens are known to skip practice so they can take a smoke break and become tired faster during practice and games because of the effects that vaping has on their lungs.
Teens should understand that nicotine is addictive and that it can affect their health and performance in school and sports. According to Michael Joseph Blaha, M.D., M.P.H. Director of Clinical Research, Ciccarone Center for the Prevention of Cardiovascular Disease, both e-cigarettes and regular cigarettes contain nicotine, which research suggests may be as addictive as heroin and cocaine. Many e-cigarette users get even more nicotine than they would from a tobacco product. There are even extra-strength cartridges, which have a higher concentration of nicotine, and users can increase the e-cigarette’s voltage to get a greater hit of the substance. Once a teen starts vaping, it can become compulsive and hard to stop. Evidence also suggests that vaping is linked to alcohol use and other substance use, like marijuana.
E-cigarettes contain harmful chemicals such as nicotine, formaldehyde, nitrosamines, and lead. Nicotine is an addictive colorless, oily chemical, which is also a poison used in pesticides. Formaldehyde is a toxic chemical added to plastics, dyes, and embalming fluids and is a known carcinogen, the chemical nitrosamine is linked to cancer and lead is a neurotoxin. Flavors used in e-devices have chemicals linked to lung cancer. There’s benzene, which is found in car exhaust, and metals like nickel, chromium, and manganese. The list goes on and this doesn’t even include the ease to add other substances.
Symptoms of Vaping
There are 326 negative symptoms reported from the use of e-devices. Most affect the mouth and respiratory system, and others are related to the nervous, circulatory, and digestive systems. A few are listed below.
- Dry mouth
- Chapped lips
- Dry skin
- Dry eyes
- Bleeding gums
- Gum disease could lead to tooth loss
- Fast Heartbeat
- Nausea or Vomiting
- Stomach pains
- High blood pressure
- Cancers of the respiratory tract and blood
- Irregular heartbeats
- Wheezing and shortness of breath
- Lung inflammation
- Decreased immunity to colds and lung ailments
- Upset stomach
- Dizziness and fainting
- Nervousness and agitation
There is not a lot of research on the long-term effects of vaping, but it’s not looking good. Studies have shown that long-term inhalation of formaldehyde through vaping may present 5 to 15 times the cancer risk than smoking. Cigarette smokers with chronic bronchitis often develop permanent lung damage, as they get older. Researchers don’t know yet whether long-term vapers will too. Teens haven’t been vaping long enough to know all the answers.
The Dangers of E-cigarettes Batteries
Defective e-cigarette batteries can cause fires and explosions, which can result in serious injury. Lithium-ion batteries produce about two times the voltage of traditional batteries. They can explode if internal electrical components short circuit, resulting in spontaneous combustion. When an e-device explodes it leaves severe burns, lung damage, facial fractures, shattered teeth, and even broken necks and finger amputations.
When Quitting, Ask for Help.
It is not easy to stop vaping. Withdrawal symptoms like headaches, sweating, anxiety, depression, coughing, and shakiness, make it easy to fall back to the habit, so don’t be afraid to ask for help. Or if someone you know needs help, reach out to them.