Vaping: What Everyone and No One is Talking About

Jonny Radcliff
December 10th, 2019

I remember a charming, naïve time when teenage vaping was a theory and not a reality in my group. 

Then I received that bubble-bursting phone call from a parent. 

My students were not only taking part in the act of vaping, but they were perfecting the peddling of vaping too. Turns out that we had two kids who were selling vapes to other students during the Wednesday night service. Although it is, admittedly, a shrewd business decision, it was a complicated, smoke-filled scandal. We endearingly refer to it as VapeGate. 

If you haven’t directly dealt with teenage vaping, the stats prove that it’s probably coming at you really soon. Here are the quick – and concerning – facts on teenage vaping.

Teenage Use is Climbing

While it’s true that teenage use of traditional cigarettes has drastically declined, the use of nicotine hasn’t. It is now in a friendlier, less stigmatized form known as the e-cigarette. And teenagers are giving it a shot. 

These are the stats of high schoolers who have vaped by year: 

I polled a local group of experts (my high schoolers) to shed light on why. In our discussion, they felt that in our context that number was drastically higher, supposing numbers to be closer to 70%. Many agreed that the prime motivator for experimenting with vaping was autonomy. Sure, some teens are curious what all the fuss is about, but being able to partake in something edgy and not-parent-approved is the higher appeal. 

Misconceptions Fuel Its Use

There are several myths that fuel vaping’s widespread use: 

Myth #1: It’s a vapor

Ironically, vapers are not expelling a vapor – it’s propylene glycol. This billowy smoke looks as refreshing as the wafts from the humidifier that mom set up when you had the Croup, giving the subtle impression that this is a natural, chemical free puff of steam. 

But propylene glycol metabolizes as propionaldehyde. Propionaldehyde is a relative of formaldehyde. 

Imagine ingesting your dissected frog from Biology. Gross. 

That image isn’t as visually appealing as what YouTube sensation vAustinL is able to do with a vape, but it is reality – and it may be damaging your liver. 

Myth #2: It’s not as addictive

Although e-cigarettes were originally designed to help smokers quit, 40% of teenage users have never used nicotine before experimenting with vapes. This is a problem because researchers say that nicotine can produce long-term brain damage for teens. These are three factors causing teens to fall into an addiction: The misperception that it’s not bad for you, the ability to easily conceal it from parents, and the tendency to take more hits in a short amount of time than advised. 

It’s true that vapes do not need to have nicotine. Some teens are merely enjoying some great flavors like cotton candy, caramel, or wild cherry. However, the majority of vaping teens have nicotine in their vapes – and some of them have marijuana or hash oil. 

Myth #3: It’s safe

This has been the trademark of vaping’s quick rise to fame. However, it’s a misguided claim. Some experts are incredibly alarmed at vaping’s implications. NIDA Director Dr. Nora D. Volkow said, “The use of these devices has become a public health crisis. These products introduce the highly addictive chemical nicotine to these young people and their developing brains, and I fear we are only beginning to learn the possible health risks and outcomes for youth.”

There is so much that is unknown about repeated use. There is very little knowledge of the ingredients. There is a difficulty in regulating its production. So many variables can make this a disastrous hobby. 

The LA Times reports:

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has linked vaping to 1,479 cases of a mysterious lung disease over the last six months. At least 33 people have died since the outbreak began.

The illness is marked by chest pain, shortness of breath and vomiting, and it has largely affected young people. The vast majority of cases, almost 80%, involve e-cigarette users younger than 35, and another 15% are younger than 18.

Unfortunately, we may be starting to see the effects of vaping.

There Is Hope

When I had my discussion time with my high schoolers, I left very encouraged. They saw through social pressure. They were wary of the health implications. Wisdom was winning the day. 

The great news is that we serve a God who gave us everything we need to navigate these tumultuous topics. Take your teens through the Bible and help them process how to make a decision on vaping from God’s Word. 

For help on this topic and more, check out this fantastic resource on vaping from Axis. 

Jonny Radcliff

Jonny Radcliff is the Student Ministry Director at Storehouse Church and the Philly Area Coordinator at National Network of Youth Ministries. He lives near Philly with his wife and the three little monsters that they rear together. His 10+ years of youth ministry have been spent in Indiana and Pennsylvania. He is a graduate of Liberty University and Grace Theological Seminary.

Disclaimer: The views and opinions expressed in the YS Blog are those of the authors and do not necessarily reflect the opinion or position of YS.