Vaping is the act of inhaling and exhaling an aerosol, often referred to as vapor, produced by an e-cigarette, vape pen, or similar device. These devices contain flavored e-liquids, nicotine and/or marijuana. 

Vaping’s popularity has by far exceeded that of smoking cigarettes among today’s adolescents. Research from NIDA found that the number of teens vaping has doubled or tripled in the last 5 years. Vaping has resulted in thousands of illnesses and even several dozen deaths.



Maybe you’ve heard people talking about vaping but you aren’t sure exactly what that means. Perhaps you think it’s just flavoring and not really addictive. If you thought that, you wouldn’t be alone. 

Studies show that the majority of youth e-cigarette users thought they only vaped flavoring as opposed to nicotine. But the fact is that e-cigarettes don’t just contain nicotine. They contain a whole range of dangerous chemicals and substances that are linked to serious health risks.

While vaping is typically more appealing to kids than smoking, there are more youth that don’t use tobacco products than those that do. However, the numbers are still alarming. 16% of middle schoolers and 34% of highschoolers report vaping at least once. With education and awareness, there is hope that these vaping numbers will drop. Middle and high schoolers are starting to understand the risks of vaping.

You probably have questions about why vaping is so dangerous. What is the difference between vaping and smoking? We can help you understand why vaping is a dangerous choice.

What is Vaping?

Vaping is the act of inhaling and exhaling the vapor, or aerosol, that is created by a vaping device. A vaping device heats an e-liquid that is then inhaled. The e-liquid contains THC or nicotine, also known as vape juice. There are various types of vaping devices, such as e-cigarettes, vape pens, and personal vaporizers. There is not a single vaping device that is a safe option. 

Vaping liquid may sound a little less dangerous than smoking an actual cigarette, but that simply isn’t true. E-liquid contains the same nicotine found in regular cigarettes and does just as much damage to your body. Nicotine is highly addictive and harms adolescent brain development. Using nicotine during adolescence harms the parts of the brain that control attention, learning, mood, and impulse control. 

Plus, the aerosol that is breathed in from a vaping device can contain other harmful substances besides nicotine, such as: 

  • Ultrafine particles that are inhaled deeply into the lungs
  • Flavoring such as diacetyl, which is linked to serious lung disease and permanent damage
  • Compounds such as benzene, which is found in car exhaust
  • Heavy metals such as nickel, tin, and lead
  • Acrolein, which harms the lungs
  • Formaldehyde, another probable carcinogen.

How Vaping Affects Your Body

Once you realize that vaping is inhaling smoke full of metals and causes deadly illnesses, it doesn’t sound as fun, does it? These are just two side effects of vaping and there are many more. These are just some of the ways vaping can affect you:

  • Vaping causes nicotine dependence, which leads to disruptions in brain development.
  • When a person vapes, they take cancer-causing chemicals into their body.
  • Vape liquid contains a flavoring chemical called diacetyl that is linked to a condition called “popcorn lung,” which causes scarring and obstruction in the lungs
  • There is an increased risk of cancer, heart disease, stroke, lung disease, diabetes, and chronic obstructive pulmonary disease.
  • Vaping leads to a higher risk of contracting lipoid pneumonia.
  • You may experience increased anxiety and depression. 
  • Vaping can cause a mental fog and problems with clear thinking.
  • Frequent acid reflux.

Know the Risks

Surveys show that e-cigarette use is associated with high-risk behaviors among high school students. Using nicotine at a younger age increases the risk of developing tobacco and cannabis use disorders later in life.

Just like cigarette smoking, vaping can lead to an early death. Vaping has been linked to a condition known as EVALI, which is responsible for at least 68 deaths, as of 2020.

What is EVALI?

EVALI (E-cigarette, or Vaping Product, Associated Lung Injury) is a vaping induced lung disease that is triggered when substances are inhaled into the lungs. This disease progresses rapidly in a matter of weeks and even days. It can occur as pneumonia or as an inflammatory reaction known as fibrinous pneumonitis.

Symptoms of EVALI include shortness of breath, fever, cough, diarrhea, and hypoxia, which means you have low levels of oxygen in your blood. This is life-threatening, as your organs rely on that oxygen to keep working.

Underage vaping Data

Middle School Students (6th - 8th grade)

In Johnson County, vaping rates increase in 7th grade and into 8th grade. Still, the majority of middle schoolers in Johnson County are not vaping.

Source: Georgia Student Health Survey, 2022

High School Students (9th - 12th grade)

In high school, vaping becomes more common and after 9th grade, vape usage increases with each grade. In Johnson County, only 67% of 12th graders are not vaping, but the majority of high schoolers are still not vaping.

Source: Georgia Student Health Survey, 2022

Common Myths

While it was commonly thought that smoking was more dangerous than vaping, studies are showing similar damage to the lungs with smoking and vaping. As of 2020, there were 2,807 confirmed cases of severe respiratory illnesses associated with vaping of nicotine and cannabis products. While we have long-term studies for cigarette smoking that document the dangers, vaping is relatively newer so we do not have as many studies to evaluate. Therefore, many of the risks are still unknown.

The risk for addiction is equal between smoking and vaping. Many e-cigarettes contain even more nicotine than cigarettes. Just one Juul pod is the equivalent of a full pack of 20 cigarettes. Nicotine is a highly addictive substance and because the brain is still developing, youth can more easily become addicted to nicotine than adults and are more likely to stay addicted.

Research suggests that people who breathe in the aerosol from vaping might be exposed to many of the same toxins found in e-cigarettes. Because of this danger, vaping is banned in all of the same places as smoking due to the risks of secondhand exposure in both.

E-cigarettes are incredibly bad for you. Vape liquid contains substances that are classified as probable carcinogens. A few of the chemicals commonly found in the aerosol in vape are acrolein, which harms the lungs, and formaldehyde, another probable carcinogen. You can not rule out the idea that e-cigarettes may cause cancer.

Prevention Tips for Youth

Vaping may seem like an attractive option if you’re wanting to try something new or fit in with friends. With different flavors designed to attract young people just like you, it can seem like an enticing option. But you’re too smart to fall for that! You don’t want to get addicted to nicotine and damage your body. Now that though you know how dangerous it is, you need to be prepared to turn it down whenever someone offers you a vape. So how do you turn it down when someone offers you a vape?

Tip #1

Set clear limits with friends beforehand. Casually discuss the dangers of vaping before it even becomes an issue. Chances are, if you have good friends, they will support you. Plus once they understand the dangers of vaping, they probably won’t be interested in trying it either.

Tip #2

Have a few valid excuses in mind. When someone encourages you to try vaping, arm yourself with some reasons why you can’t do it. You don’t want to appear judgmental and you don’t want to lose friends. We get it. But you don’t have to be pressured into vaping. Instead, use excuses such as, “My parents are extremely strict and I don’t want to get in trouble.” Or “I can’t risk getting kicked off a sports team.”

Tip #3

Surround yourself with the right kind of people. It’s a lot easier to control the situations you are in if you hang out with people that feel the same way you do. Try to find friends that have the same standards and opinions about smoking, vaping, drinking, and drug use.

Prevention Tips for Parents

Parents play a major role in shaping young people’s attitudes about vaping. The first step to prevention is having an open line of discussion with your child about vaping.

Tip #1

Start the conversation. Find opportunities to casually discuss vaping with your teen in a non-confrontational way. For example, you can ask what your child thinks when you see someone using an e-cigarette in person or in a video or when passing an e-cigarette shop while driving or walking by.

Tip #2

Know what to look for. Parents need to know that vaping is easier to hide than smoking. It gives off less smoke and has a sweet smell. Plus, vaping devices can look like pens or electronic equipment. There is one style of vaping device that looks like a flash drive.

Tip #3

Be aware of your child’s stress level. Sometimes teens are looking for a way to relieve stress and turn to vaping or smoking. If your child seems under a lot of pressure, talk to them about ways to relieve stress other than vaping.

Tip #4

Get to know your child’s friends and their parents. If their friends smoke or vape, your child is more likely to try smoking or vaping as well. Knowing your kids’ friends and their friends’ parents will help you know if they are likely to try vaping.

Warning Signs of Vaping

When someone is vaping, there can be some unique warning signs. It is important to be aware of these signs, because some  may be different than what you might expect. We’ve listed some common warning signs below:

Test Your Knowledge


Test Your Knowledge - Vaping

1 / 10

What percentage of high schoolers have vaped at least once?

2 / 10

Which of the following are signs of vaping? Check all that apply.

3 / 10

True or False? If a child’s friends vape, they are more likely to try vaping.

4 / 10

What condition causes scarring and obstruction in the lungs?

5 / 10

Which of these statements are true about vaping?

6 / 10

This lung condition can be caused by vaping and cause early death.

7 / 10

 True or False? Vaping is less addictive than cigarettes.

8 / 10

Which of the following compounds found in vape juice are linked with serious health risks? Check all that apply:

9 / 10

True or False? Second hand vaping is dangerous.

10 / 10

As of 2020, there were _______ confirmed cases of severe respiratory illnesses associated with vaping of nicotine and cannabis products.

Your score is


Take the Pledge

Take the Pledge

Take the pledge to live substance-free!


Resources for Parents

Resources for parents to help prevent underage substance abuse, including conversation guides, fact sheets, online resources, and more!

Resources for Youth

Resources for youth to help learn the risks and prevent substance abuse, including apps, games, websites, media, and more!

Get More Facts