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What does a vape look like?
Vapes, or e-cigarettes, come in many shapes and sizes. Teens tend to favor smaller, sleeker devices, which are easy to conceal at home and at school.
Juul is the most popular brand of vape devices among teens; Juuls resemble computer flash drives and come with disposable snap-on “pods” (cartridges) that hold the e-liquid. Users can plug their Juul charging dock directly into a computer USB port—so the device can be easily mistaken for a piece of technology.
How do vapes work?
Vape devices have cartridges or reservoirs filled with an e-liquid. The e-liquid is heated by a battery-powered heating element that, depending on the device type, is triggered either when a user inhales or presses a button. Heating the e-liquid produces an aerosol that is inhaled into the lungs through a mouthpiece.
What are teens vaping?
Many teens and parents mistakenly believe that vaping merely produces a water vapor. Not so.
E-liquid ingredients typically consist of nicotine, flavorants and sometimes other chemicals, and a propylene glycol or vegetable glycerin base. Teens most commonly use this type of e-liquid.
However, marijuana and THC-containing products are also available.
About 99% of all e-liquids sold over the counter contain nicotine.1 Juul’s 5% nicotine pods contain as much nicotine as a pack of cigarettes.2
Flavorants and other chemicals
The aerosol that is produced by heating the e-liquid contains flavorants and other potentially dangerous chemicals. Specifically, according to the US Surgeon General and the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), the aerosol can contain “ultrafine particles that can be inhaled deep into the lungs; flavoring such diacetyl, a chemical linked to a serious lung disease; volatile organic compounds such as benzene, which is found in car exhaust; and heavy metals, such as nickel, tin, and lead.”3
- The short- and long-term effects of inhaling chemicals found in vape e-liquids are not yet known.
- Labels often list the vague ingredients term “flavors” without revealing what’s actually in them.
Marijuana is usually vaped in the form of liquid THC, the primary psychoactive component of the marijuana plant. Many teens are able to purchase products with THC online or from peers, or tamper with cartridges to make their own e-liquids containing THC.
The percentage of teens who vape marijuana rose dramatically in the year between 2018-2019, according to data collected from students in the 2019 Monitoring the Future Survey.4
Percentage of students who report vaping marijuana within the past month:
8th grade 3.9%
10th grade 12.6%
12th grade 14%
While the CDC is still investigating the hospitalizations and deaths relating to vaping that began in summer 2019, the agency is finding an association with THC-containing products that are mixed with Vitamin E acetate.5