The dangers of teen vaping

Mark and Laura were divorced and raising teenagers. When Mark had his teens at his house, he would find vaping materials in their rooms and in their backpacks. He had many concerns about his children vaping, but seemed to be unable to find out where they were purchasing their supplies. Mark’s children were underage and should not have been able to buy these supplies. Yet no matter how many times he threw their vaping pens and flavored cartridges away, they always had new ones on their next stay. Mark wondered, “where are they buying this stuff?”

Many parents of teenagers worry about their children vaping. While vaping has been shown to help reduce smoking rates in adults, it actually promotes smoking in children and teens. The attractive packaging and kid-friendly flavors makes vaping a stepping stone to smoking cigarettes for youth. Even more problematic than just becoming a smoker, there are real health risks related to vaping supplies.

As vaping becomes more common, there are unscrupulous people who sell counterfeit supplies that are not safe for use. The packaging of the fake vaping supplies is nearly identical to the real containers. This makes it very difficult for children and teens to evaluate the quality of the items they are using. Even more dangerous is the fact that many of the fake vaping supplies are not made in clean factories, do not undergo any quality assurance testing, and may use ingredients that are harmful if inhaled

There have been deaths and severe injuries related to vaping. Some deaths have been related to counterfeit liquid cartridges containing oil. Inhaling oil damages lung tissue and can cause injury or death. Other injuries have been related to the metals that are released into the inhaled vapor from the heating elements of counterfeit vaping pens. Metals such as lead and mercury are toxic to the human body. Counterfeit suppliers do not assure that their vaping pens are safe for use. It is most common to encounter counterfeit vaping supplies online or in person-to-person sales in the community.

Children and teens are at greater risk for injury from vaping because they are more likely to use purchase supplies from alternate retailers like online shops or local dealers. The nearly identical packaging and attractive pricing of counterfeit supplies makes it hard for children and teens to resist these products. Additionally, most of these alternate retailers do not verify the age of the purchaser to assure they are of legal age before selling.

Parents can help their children and teens avoid unnecessary risks related to vaping by having open and honest conversations about their vaping use. Use these conversations to make them aware of the dangers of purchasing counterfeit supplies and emphasize that the packaging is not a valid way to evaluate the quality of the product. Additionally, try to be empathetic to their needs to fit in with their peer groups and practice ways that they can resist peer pressure. A great way to do this is to allow them to use you as an excuse if they don’t feel comfortable being forthright. A few examples they could use may be:

  • My mom digs through my backpack every night, I would never be able to hide my stash from her.
  • My dad would kill me if he found out I was vaping. Our (add family member) died of lung cancer and it destroyed my dad. I couldn’t do that to him.
  • I had asthma as a child and mostly outgrew it, but my mom says that if I smoke it could come back and I don’t want to chance it.

As children and teens mature, they will be able to voice their own needs, but in the beginning it can be hard. Having an excuse prepared to reduce peer pressure can be helpful.

Vaping is the new cigarette smoking. Being honest with teens, helping them know the risks, giving them support to make their own choices, and guiding them on how to manage tricky peer relationships can bring your relationship closer while also reducing the risk that your child or teen gets an injury from vaping.


Morean, M. E., Kong, G., Camenga, D. R., Cavallo D. A. & Krishnan-Sarin, S. (2015). High school students’ use of electronic cigarettes to vaporize cannabis. Pediatrics 136(4), pp. 611-616.

Rohde, J. A., Noar, S. M., Horvitz, C., Lazard, A. J., Cornacchione Ross, J., & Sutfin, E. L. (2018). The role of knowledge and risk beliefs in adolescent e-cigarette use: A pilot study. International Journal of Environmental Research and Public Health 15, doi: 10.3390/ijerph15040830.

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