Young People and vaping: Is it Safe?

Vaping among young people is becoming more and more common. And more and more worrying.

What is it?

Is it safe?

What can you do about it for your children?

Make sure to read the article below to find out.

What is vaping?

Vaping is a form of ‘smoking’ using vapes, also called e-cigarettes. Vapes are electronic smoking devices that are designed to simulate cigarette smoking but without tobacco.

Inside the vape is a liquid which is vaporised and then inhaled through a mouthpiece. Vapes come in a range of designs but most resemble cigarettes. Some key differences are the larger cylindrical or rectangular shapes, and the array of colours they are available in.

The liquid (and the aerosol that it produces) comes in a wide variety of different flavours including fruit, confectionary and even tobacco itself.

Is vaping safe for young people?

Vaping has been viewed by some as a method of quitting cigarette smoking. Or as a safer alternative to smoking cigarettes. And these messages have been promoted and encouraged by vape manufacturers and retailers.

But this isn’t necessarily the case.

There has been limited research conducted since the relatively recent invention of vaping. But the research so far suggests that while taking up vape usage can play a role in quitting cigarette smoking there are still negative effects.

We know, for example, that most vapes’ liquid contains dangerous amounts of nicotine and other harmful substances.

According to the Department of Health (2022), one vape can contain as much nicotine as up to 50 cigarettes combined! This makes it highly addictive.

Some vapes have been found to contain other very harmful chemicals, especially when consumed. These includes:

  • Cleaning product chemicals
  • Nail polish remover
  • Weedkillers
  • Bug spray
  • Heavy metals, such as nickel, tin, and lead
  • Toxins including formaldehyde and diacetyl (which is a flavouring chemical linked to lung disease)

The Department of Health has warned consumers that the labels on vapes are not always true reflections of what’s actually in them. The majority of ingredients may not even be listed.

Image of a young person vaping
Vaping image source: Pulmonology Advisor

Should I be concerned about my child vaping?

Unfortunately, it’s too early to know the long-term effects of vaping on children and adults alike. Nonetheless, emerging research suggests a link between the inhalation of the above listed substances and lung disease, heart problems and cancer.

Health experts around Australia and even the world are particularly concerned about the harmful effects of the nicotine contained in vapes on young people. Nicotine has the potential to affect brain development, memory, concentration, attention and increase the risk of anxiety and depression.

Moreover, vaping is seen by some as a potential ‘gateway’ to cigarette smoking. With some research indicating that young people who vape are three times more likely to take up other forms of smoking in the future.

As a parent, what can I do about it?

Whether or not you suspect that your child could be vaping, it is a good idea to have a conversation with them about it. As part of this conversation you can make sure they understand the health risks.

Always make sure to start by asking your child in a calm and non-judgemental way if they have every tried vaping. You may find it easiest to wait for an external cue to stimulate the conversation. Examples include passing a person on the street who is vaping or seeing a news report on the topic on TV.

The aim is to encourage an open and honest conversation in a safe environment.

If your child has never used a vape

If it seems there are no concerns that your child is vaping, continue the conversation to ensure that they are aware of the ways that taking up vaping could affect their health. You can even come up with a plan together of how they could respond if they are ever offered a vape from one of their friends.

If your child has used a vape before

If your child discloses to you that they are vaping, express concern for their health and encourage them to stop. Let them know that you are there for them and that you want to help without being judgemental. You might suggest that-together-you set a date for them to quit, get rid of all of their vape supplies, and write a list of reasons why they want to quit on their phone for them to refer back to.

If required, let them know that you can assist them to access professional support, such as your family GP or counselling through Quit (including their Aboriginal Quitline).

Remember: You can always call the One Central Health team as well to set an appointment with one of our trained and experienced therapists: 08 9344 1318.

For more information about young people and vaping, check out the following information resources.

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