Mar 17, 2023, 2:16:06 PM CDT Oct 10, 2023, 2:45:41 PM CDT

How vaping affects heart health

What parents need to know about how e-cigarettes, vapes and more impact children’s and teens’ cardiovascular health.

A person holding a vape A person holding a vape

While cigarette smoking has become less prevalent among children and teens in recent years, vaping has become a troubling and growing addiction among young people.

Electronic nicotine delivery systems (ENDS) include devices like vapes, electronic cigarettes (e-cigarettes), e-cigs, vape pens and vaporizers. These battery-powered devices contain liquid nicotine that is turned into a vapor that can be inhaled when heated. Just about any drug, including marijuana, caffeine and essential oils, can be vaped.

Despite the misconception, "Vaping is not safer than smoking cigarettes, especially for kids," says Hoang Nguyen, M.D., a pediatric cardiologist at Children's Health℠. While ENDS have been marketed as smoking cessation devices, for children who have not previously smoked, they can lead to harmful habits and nicotine addiction. Evidence suggests that acute cardiovascular effects of e-cigarettes may appear over time with prolonged use, leading to cardiovascular disease in long-term users.

Vaping's popularity in youth is attributed to flavored liquids that help mask the harsh taste of nicotine. It has been illegal to sell ENDS products to anyone under the age of 21 since 2019, but before the age regulation, the percentage of high school students who use e-cigarettes approached 10%. Moreover, illicit ENDS products, including flavored nicotine cartridges, continue to be widely available.

Can vaping impact heart health?

Many kids perceive vaping as less harmful than smoking cigarettes because there is no smoke. However, vaping has been proven to impact cardiovascular health in dangerous ways. The American Heart Association released a scientific statement linking vaping among youths and cardiovascular disease.

"The latest research suggests that vaping is as harmful to the body's cardiovascular systems as cigarettes," says Dr. Nguyen.

Much of the harm from vaping comes from the variety of chemicals in vaping cartridges, which can be wide-ranging and inconsistent. The danger exists partly because all nicotine in a vaping product is absorbed when it is inhaled, whereas not all nicotine is absorbed from cigarette smoking. Vaping can also cause:

  • Arterial stiffness (stiffening of the arterial wall causing hypertension)
  • Higher blood pressure
  • Hyperinflammatory response (severe inflammation) which can lead to blood clots and respiratory distress syndrome
  • Increased heart rate
  • Released adrenaline

These factors combine to increase the risk of heart attack and stroke, even in otherwise healthy children and teens.

What are other dangers of vaping for children and teens?

According to Dr. Nguyen, vaping can be dangerous for your child even beyond its impact on cardiovascular health. These risks include:

  • Airway irritation and breathing problems
  • Challenges with healthy brain development
  • Facial injuries from exploding batteries
  • Lung injury
  • Mental health issues
  • Nicotine addiction

How can parents help kids and teens avoid or stop vaping?

Parents can take steps to help their kids avoid or stop a harmful vaping habit. Dr. Nguyen suggests:

  • Speaking with your children about the harmful effects of tobacco
  • Maintaining a smoke-free environment or quitting smoking
  • Discussing the marketing tactics e-cigarette companies use on social media
  • Addressing mental health issues
  • Involving counselors and pediatricians

If your child is having trouble quitting vaping, nicotine replacement therapy combined with behavioral therapy may help with vaping cessation, though further research is needed.

See more tips about talking with teens about the dangers of vaping.

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