Vaping Impacts on Teen Health

Study finds a month of electronic cigarette use can cause significant respiratory symptoms in young people.

Not On Tobacco cessation program for teens

Group sessions meet once a week for seven weeks via Zoom. You can sign up online here or call (502) 629-7358

Electronic cigarette use puts young people at risk of bronchitis, shortness of breath and other significant respiratory symptoms after just 30 days, according to a new study from the Center for Tobacco Research.

The study found these teens were twice as likely to have bronchitis and 78% more likely to have shortness of breath.

A growing problem

In Kentucky, the most recent state Incentives for Prevention Student Survey found more than 1 in 4 high school seniors reported vaping at least once in the last year. Between January 2022 and September 2023, 428 Norton Children’s patients were clinically diagnosed with nicotine dependence.

“We have seen teenagers with worsening asthma and respiratory symptoms due to vaping,” said Scott Bickel, M.D., pediatric pulmonologist and director of respiratory therapy for Norton Children’s Pulmonology, affiliated with the UofL School of Medicine. “People traditionally had a perception that maybe these products were safe, which I don’t think ever has been true. A lot of times, they’re doing this to try and self-medicate or self-treat anxiety and other mental health issues.”

Physicians at Norton Children’s have also seen teenagers with lung inflammation and irritation due to vaping, a condition known as e-cigarette or vaping use-associated lung injury (EVALI).

“From a very early age, start to have conversations about these products and about how detrimental they can be,” Dr. Bickel suggested to parents and caregivers. 

Resource for recovery

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention finds most e-cigarettes contain nicotine, an addictive drug that may increase youths’ risk for future addiction to other drugs.

Dr. Bickel and other Norton Children’s providers who notice young patients struggling with this issue recommend a teen tobacco cessation course called Not On Tobacco through Norton Children’s Prevention & Wellness. The program created by the American Lung Association  aims to help teens quit vapes, cigarettes and other forms of tobacco. It’s a free program for ages 14 to 19 and includes:

  • Teaching healthy habits
  • Providing tools to prepare for tough moments that could trigger tobacco use
  • Facilitating support among classmates on their journey to quitting