Although it has been around for over a decade, vaping’s popularity exploded in 2017, taking many families, schools and healthcare providers by surprise. Vaping, or Juuling as it is often referred toby teens and young adults (named after a popular vape device called JUUL), is the inhaling and exhaling of an aerosol produced by using a vape device.

According to the University of Michigan’s 2017 Monitoring the Future study, nearly 1 in 3 high school seniors tried vaping in the past year. With advertising geared toward teens and young adults, brightly colored vape pens and thousands of flavors to choose from, the expectation is that growth will continue. Some estimate that the market will be worth over $60 billion by 2025.

For every story or article touting the benefits of vaping, there are an equal number raising concerns about the risks of vaping, especially for teens and young adults. The Vaping - What You Need to Know Guide is intended to help you understand what vaping is, its appeal to youth and what research has to say about both the risks and unknowns, due to the lack of long-term vaping studies. We’ve identified some signs to look for and what to do if you are concerned that your child may try or actually is vaping. Lastly, we offer some advice on what to say when talking with your child about vaping.


What is Vaping?

Vaping is the act of inhaling and exhaling aerosol or vapor produced by a vape device. Because of the rise in popularity of JUUL, a specific type of vape device, many teens and young adults use the term “JUULING” (pronounced Jeweling), instead of vaping.

How Does a Vaping Work?

Vape devices, known as e-cigs, e-hookahs, mods, vape pens, vapes, tank systems and Juuls, contain 4 basic components: a cartridge or a tank to hold e-liquid (or  e-juice/vape sauce), a heating element known as an atomizer, a battery and a mouthpiece to inhale.

A sensor detects when a person is trying to inhale. This triggers the battery to supply electricity to the coil of wire or the atomizer. The heat given off by the coil is transferred to the e-liquid, which can only take so much energy before it’s vaporized, and this is what users inhale. While the output of the devices may look like smoke, it is actually vapor.

What do Vape Devices Look Like?

Some vape devices look like regular cigarettes, cigars or pipes while others resemble USB sticks and other everyday objects like a guitar pick. Larger devices such as tank systems, or “mods,” do not look like other tobacco products. Instead, they look more like a small cellphone. Some devices can be thrown away, while others can be reused by charging the device on the USB port of a computer or elsewhere and replacing the e-liquid, either by filling the chamber or using a self-contained pod.

What is Being Vaped?

Although many substances can be vaped, three are most common: flavored e-liquids, flavored e-liquids with nicotine, and marijuana. The e-liquids come in small bottles or in pre-filled pods or cartridges. Pods are the component that contain the e-liquid.

1. Flavored e-liquids come in thousands of flavors, including bubble gum, cotton candy and grape, but also hot dog, banana bread and King Crab legs.

2. Flavored e-liquids may also contain different levels of nicotine, ranging from 2mg/ml to 59mg/ml. One of the more popular vape devices, Juul, contains 59mg/ml of nicotine in each pod. Each Juul pod is equal to one pack of cigarettes.

3. Marijuana can be vaped in both the leaf form or using THC and/or CBD oil. THC is the psychoactive compound in marijuana that creates a sense of being high.

What is Vaping's Appeal?

Although vaping was intended to be a less harmful option for adult smokers, teens and young adults have embraced it for several reasons. First and foremost is a sense of curiosity, followed by the many kid-oriented flavors offered.

It’s not uncommon for kids to try out each other’s vapes at parties to check out flavors like German Chocolate Cake or Banana Split and then post vaping videos on social media.

Teens are increasingly becoming interested in “cloud competitions,” in which adults compete to perform the best vaping tricks. In addition to being featured on social media, cloud competitions are becoming a regular feature at local vape shops with some offering thousands of dollars in prize money.

Boredom is another reason cited by many teens. It can be habit-forming, much in the same way teens check their phones in free moments. It’s easy to take a quick puff.

Is Vaping Safe?

The short answer is that vaping isn’t considered safe for teens and young adults, especially since their brains are still developing. Vaping is a relatively new phenomenon. As a result, long-term studies that examine its impact on teen and young adult health and behavior have yet to be concluded.

The most comprehensive research to date is a report commissioned by Congress from the National Academies of Sciences, Engineering and Medicine. Released in January 2018, the report looked at exposure to nicotine and other toxic substances, dependence, harm reduction, smoking risks, cancer and more. A summary of their findings, based on “conclusive” or “substantial” evidence is available in the Vaping - What You Need to Know Guide.

What are the Signs of Vaping?

You may find devices that look like flash drives, e-juice bottles, pods (that contain e-juice) or product packaging. Aside from leaf marijuana, gel jars that contain dabs, small tools to scoop dabs and cartridges that contain THC oil are signs of vaping marijuana.

Online purchases / packages in the mail / store purchases
Be on the lookout for purchases made online and charged to your credit card or unusual packages that arrive in the mail. Kids also buy them at big box stores, gas stations or from other friends.

While the smell from vaping is faint, you may catch a whiff of a flavoring where there appears to be no other source. For example, if you smell bubble gum or chocolate cake, take note.

Increased thirst / nose bleeds 
Some of the chemicals used in e-juices have the effect of drying out the mouth and nasal passages. As a result, some kids drink more liquids or seem more prone to nose bleeds.

Decreased caffeine use 
Some teens and young adults develop a sensitivity to caffeine. If your child drank caffeinated energy drinks and quits, it may be as a result of vaping.

Vaping lingo 
You may see vape lingo in text messages such as “atty” for an atomizer, “VG” for vegetable glycerin found in e-juice or “sauce” referring to e-juice. Kids often brag about their vaping exploits on social media. Look for pictures on Instagram or YouTube or check their Twitter accounts.

Appearance and behavior changes
Just like smoking, vaping marijuana can result in bloodshot eyes, dry mouth and thirst, increased appetite and shifts in behavior and mood. Sometimes, there is a noticeable change in friends and a decrease in activities that were once enjoyed.