To Smoke, or Not to smoke? To Vape, or Not to Vape? – Teens Using Nicotine

Addiction Dependence Amongst Our Youth


DELMARVA – The Food and Drug Administration and the Center for Disease Control and Prevention released data in 2023 from the Youth Tobacco Survey. Studies showed that approximately 1.97 million high school students reported using some form of a tobacco product. One in four youth currently use an e-cigarette every day. We wanted to know what teenage dependency looks like in Delmarva.

Dangers and Risk

Local health experts have been tirelessly trying to address the dangers of nicotine, specifically as it pertains to the younger members of our society. Sarah Cattie, Administrator of Delaware Health and Social Services: Tobacco Prevention and Control Program, speaks on the dangers of nicotine. “In terms of the physical effects, a lot of them overlap. There’s a perception out there that vaping is healthier, it’s a healthier option than smoking regular combustible cigarettes, and it’s really not the case that they are healthier. The data shows that vaping can cause irritation to your lungs, it can lead to scarring of your lungs, it can lead to organ damage. You can develop asthma, or if you already have asthma, it can make your existing condition worse.” She goes on to say, “A lot of the ingredients used in vapes are carcinogens, cancer-causing chemicals, and nicotine is highly addictive. Second-hand smoke is still an issue too. So, when you’re choosing to use a vape you are exposing those around you to nicotine and other chemicals as well.”

Targeting Teens

In Maryland, Executive Director of Radiation and Oncology, John Mansueti, MD, says they’re also trying to spread awareness about e-cigarettes and vaping. “I think one of the big issues of vaping is that it’s marketed sometimes as a way to get off cigarettes. Once you have a nicotine addiction that can be very powerful, right? I have patients, and it’s extremely hard for them to quit smoking. They literally have lung cancer, I’m treating them for lung cancer, and they’re still smoking while I’m treating them. We really don’t know how risky these are for cancer- because it may take 10, 20, 30, 40 years before these people develop cancer from the exposure of the chemicals and the vaping products that they’re getting today.”

Dr. Mansueti and Administrator Cattie both acknowledge how this is affecting the younger generation. “Vaping is a substance that you know, you inhale it, but when you exhale it- you’re exhaling those chemicals into the environment, ” says Dr. Mansueti. “This can be a gateway for young adults to start with vaping, get addicted to nicotine… This has huge effect on the young brain… and can cause problems where they have issues with anxiety and mood.

Sarah Cattie says the largest group of e-cigarettes users is among the youth. “Where we see the largest group of users of e-cigarettes is with our public high school students… They’re marketed to be more discreet it could look like a highlighter in someone’s backpack, it doesn’t look traditionally like a product that you would think was a vape.” She also explains how certain communities are disproportionately targeted. “We do know that nationally that these companies are specifically focusing on Black and Brown communities, and they’re using marketing techniques to make these products less expensive and make them more readily available.”

Words from the Wise

Dr. Mansueti describes what he believes is a dark path that that some of our youth could be headed on. “People feel that’s its harmless, and it’s not, but it normalizes it. So young people, they see other young folks doing it they think it’s the cool thing to do. They start the vaping, and it can be a gateway to other substances such as cigarettes and it just sort of gets this whole circle going of addiction dependence and that’s just not a good thing for our youth to head in that direction… But I sure wouldn’t want to be near someone that’s vaping.”

Delaware Health and Social Services and the American Lung Association will host a Tobacco Prevention Conference in May. The Conference is aimed at bringing together a diverse group of individuals and organizations committed to reducing tobacco use in Delaware. Organized say “The work we’ve done so far has been truly inspiring, but there remains much to be done. We won’t rest until we’ve achieved a tobacco-free Delaware for everyone.”

Read More: To Smoke, or Not to smoke? To Vape, or Not to Vape? – Teens Using Nicotine