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What is Vaping and Why Teenagers Are Getting Addicted to It?

Vaping is the inhaling of a vapor created by a vape. Other names for vapes are e-cigarettes, JUULs, and vape pens. This is something that has the potential to cause behavioral addiction and substance use disorders among teens, especially because experts do not yet know the long-term risks of vaping.


Though the e-cigarette was developed in 2003, it gained more popularity with teens starting around 2010, taking off rapidly a few years later between 2013 and 2015.


Since then, vapes have continued to grow in popularity with teens. In 2020, about 30.7% of 10th graders and 34.5% of 12th graders had vaped in the last year. These numbers have been steadily increasing over the last decade.


How Vaping Works


E-cigarettes work by vaporizing a liquid comprised of several ingredients. It’s usually a mixture of water, sweet flavorings, nicotine, and solvents.


Vapes look like small, sleek devices shaped like USB flash drives. The technology is made of a battery, an atomizer (which heats and vaporizes the liquid), and a liquid.


Some of the chemicals used in e-cigarettes include acetaldehyde, formaldehyde, acrolein, and diacetyl. The chemicals used in vapes have been labeled as generally safe by the U.S. Food & Drug Administration, but we also know that these chemicals have been linked to issues like cancer and lung damage.


Why Are Teens Getting Addicted To Vaping?


We can become addicted to anything, even if it’s been deemed safe or non-addictive. Teens are especially prone to addiction to e-cigarettes because of behavioral factors, ad campaigns, and the way their brains work.


Behavioral and Substance Addictions


To know why teens are getting addicted to vaping, we first need to discuss the two primary forms of addiction: behavioral and substance addictions.


Behavioral addiction is a compulsion to repeat a certain behavior or activity. This can be anything from shopping to phone addictions. A substance addiction, on the other hand, involves the repeated use of substances despite potential negative health risks.


Behavioral addictions are similar to substance addictions in that the brain experiences a series of triggers and rewards, which reinforce the behavior.


Ingredients like nicotine are highly addictive substances that can pose long-term abuse and health implications. And while early models of e-cigarettes didn’t let out much nicotine, later-generation devices have been found to deliver a high level of nicotine.


Some companies have created vapes that contain less nicotine. But introducing devices that contain lower nicotine concentrations doesn’t necessarily solve the problem. Researchers have found that people gravitate toward low-nicotine, high-watt vapes—that is, vapes that have less nicotine, but pack a bigger punch per pod.


In addition to the addictive nature of nicotine in vapes, there are several social and environmental factors to consider. A teen might vape because they want an escape from stressful home life, get the social aspect of vaping with friends at a party, or other factors.


The behavioral aspect combined with the substances used in vapes can create addiction. Both factors can lead to frequent cravings, which trigger areas of the brain that tell teens it’s time to vape again. As the cycle continues, there’s a high potential for abuse.