Local health professional discusses vaping risks, particularly among teenagers

“Studies are currently underway, but what science has really taught us is that preteens and teenagers are really at high risk for health problems."
Published: Jul. 13, 2023 at 9:28 AM EDT
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WILMINGTON, N.C. (WECT) - Having become increasingly popular over recent years among people ranging from early teens to older adults, vaping has been useful for some as an alternative to cigarettes, while others have used it for recreation.

Tony Bollhorst, the pulmonary disease navigator with Novant Health, discussed what users should keep in mind when it comes to vaping and the risks that present themselves, especially among younger users.

“Studies are currently underway, but what science has really taught us is that preteens and teenagers are really at high risk for health problems,” Bollhorst says. “And one of the major concerns is brain development. So our brains are rapidly developing up until our mid-20s. And if we introduce nicotine during this development, it can alter or disturb this process, resulting in a greater risk of addiction. And also other problems like, you know, lack of concentration, memory, focus, mood swings, anxiety and even depression.”

Studying the effects that vaping has on its users poses a unique challenge due, historically, to the lack of regulations for these products.

“The chemicals, you know, we don’t know a lot about it, because it’s not really regulated. But from all the studies that have been come out, it’s very dangerous,” Bollhorst adds.

To make matters more difficult when it comes to what chemicals are in each device, users have a wide variety of products to choose from.

“There’s a lot of different devices, I think that’s where it’s kind of evolved is the devices itself. So there’s, you know, vape pens, you know, there’s Juul, there’s Puff bars and E-cigarettes. These are just all battery-powered devices, that is the heating element to vaporize the tank. So these pods full of E-juice or E-liquid,” Bollhorst says.

Another issue is the misconception that it’s just water vapor.

“I think a lot of people feel that it’s safe because it’s a water vapor. So they think I’m just inhaling water vapor,” explains Bollhorst. “But in fact, it’s really, you know, the nicotine is the main cause of it, but that’s the problem. But there are other chemicals too.

“... once the nicotine is, really kind of is the same as the cigarette once it’s inhaled because it actually travels to the brain where it releases these, these chemicals this like that pleasure molecule, like the dopamine that gives us that kind of a good feeling. And then it makes you crave more because it’s unlocking more receptors. And then as the body adapts, you need more and more nicotine to get the same result.”