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Vaping 101

Are e-cigarettes healthier than regular cigarettes?

This is a common assumption about e-cigarettes, and that is how many brands like JUUL have marketed them. E-cigarettes still contain nicotine, the addictive chemical found in regular cigarettes. There are less chemicals found in most vapes, however due to the pleasant flavors and convenience, teens use vapes much more frequently. Twenty cigarettes worth of nicotine are in a single Juul pod. E-cigarettes contain a lot more than nicotine, however. Vapes contain aerosol since they cannot be lit like a cigarette. These extremely fine particles can find their way deep into your lungs and cause severe health risks. Some of the chemicals commonly found in vapes include:

  • Diacetyl - linked to lung disease

  • Benzene - found in car exhaust

  • Nickel, tin, and lead - heavy metals


What is a “headrush”?

Nicotine has vasoconstricting properties. When the chemical enters your lungs, it temporarily tightens blood vessels in your body. Nicotine travels to the brain extremely quickly and attaches itself to the acetylcholine receptors which release dopamine. When dopamine and other “feel-good chemicals” like serotonin are released this is when the feeling of the headrush happens. A headrush is very short, however, and after most people feel tired and low on energy. Even after you come down from this brief moment of a headrush, many of the impacts on the body linger. These side effects include:

  • Raised heart rate and blood pressure

  • Increased glucose production in the body

  • Dulling of senses

  • Decreases appetite

  • Drops skin temperature


How does someone become addicted?


Addiction to nicotine is comparable to alcohol, opioids, and cocaine. When dopamine is released in response to this drug your body begins craving it. Your brain quickly becomes dependent on nicotine to activate your brain receptors. This makes it more difficult for your brain to naturally produce dopamine. The craving for dopamine and the dependency your body creates on nicotine to produce it creates this cycle of addiction.


What are the lasting impacts of my vaping?


Aside from addiction which is explained above, there can be many other impacts of frequent vaping. Many studies have shown the use of vaping is linked to eventual addiction to other substances. Nicotine ingestion, while your brain is still developing, can affect the way synapses are formed which is what controls the attention and learning ability of the brain. Scientists have found many links between teen usage and permanent mental impacts such as mood disorders and impulse control.


How can I quit vaping?


Quitting any addictive substance can be difficult, but it absolutely can be done. It is important to be aware of the challenges you may potentially face so you can be prepared, as that will make your journey to quitting more successful. You will likely experience cravings and withdrawal symptoms for a period of time after you have stopped regularly using nicotine. Make sure you have a community of people there to support you through this time whether it is family, figures at school, or other trusted adults. Surrounding yourself with friends you know will not tempt you into relapsing is also beneficial. If you are looking for additional resources, consider coming to Youth Transforming Justice’s Drug and Alcohol Harm Reduction Training or speak with one of our directors.


“Build My Vaping Quit Plan.” Smokefree Teen, https://teen.smokefree.gov/quit-vaping/how-to-quit-vaping.

“How Much Nicotine Is in Juul?” Truth Initiative, https://truthinitiative.org/research-resources/emerging-tobacco-products/how-much-nicotine-juul#:~:text=One%20JUUL%20pod%20contains%2020,according%20to%20the%20JUUL%20website.

“Know the Risks of e-Cigarettes for Young People: Know the Risks: E-Cigarettes & Young People: U.S. Surgeon General's Report.” Surgeon General, https://e-cigarettes.surgeongeneral.gov/knowtherisks.html#:~:text=Youth%20and%20young%20adults%20are,permanent%20lowering%20of%20impulse%20control.

“Quick Facts on the Risks of e-Cigarettes for Kids, Teens, and Young Adults.” Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, 24 Jan. 2022, https://www.cdc.gov/tobacco/basic_information/e-cigarettes/Quick-Facts-on-the-Risks-of-E-cigarettes-for-Kids-Teens-and-Young-Adults.html.


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