Vaping is popular with young people. Very popular.

When people vape, they inhale the vapor produced by burning nicotine, marijuana, or other substances. Although some people see vaping as a safer alternative to using traditional tobacco products, vaping still can lead to dependence and addiction, an especially troubling prospect for young users still developing physically and psychologically.

Every year, the Monitoring the Future study tracks children’s, teens’, and young people’s use of drugs and alcohol and their attitudes about such substances. The 2018 edition of the report highlighted the growing popularity of vaping among people in those age groups.

Such use has skyrocketed recently. In 2018, almost 21 percent of U.S. twelfth graders said they had vaped in the last month. Only a year before, in 2017, 11 percent stated that they vaped in the previous month. The tenth graders in the survey also reported dramatic increases, as 8.2 percent vaped in the previous month in 2017 and 16.1 percent vaped the previous month in 2018.

The increases are the greatest increases ever in the history of the Monitoring the Future study, a study that goes back to 1975. The director of the National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA), Dr. Nora Volkow, says that the increases are problematic because vaping may:

• Glamorize substance abuse.
• Harm the respiratory system.
• Activate reward systems in the brain that contribute to addiction.
• Serve as a gateway to addictions to other drugs.

Many vape products contain nicotine, a highly addictive substance that is also in tobacco products. Some vape products include marijuana, a highly controversial substance seen as a drug, medicine, recreational product, or a combination of those. Still other products include flavoring, and sometimes, users don’t even know what they’re vaping.

People don’t know what they’re vaping and although it is becoming very popular, vaping is still relatively new. Scholars haven’t had enough time to track the long-term effects of vaping. These unknowns make vaping a potentially dangerous practice, a practice we should discourage among everyone, young and old alike.