Working to put an end to teen vaping


Mary Dowling '22

Studies show a rise in the the use of nicotine among teens, causing health issues and introducing a new form of addiction.

Dr. Melissa Otero, Sacred Heart Greenwich School Psychologist and Lead Wellness Strand of the Department of Student Support Services, and Mrs. Amy Rosenfeld, Community Health Educator at Northern Westchester Hospital, held a presentation for parents of students at Sacred Heart, Greenwich Academy, and Brunswick School January 28.  The presentation highlighted the risks of vaping for teens and how parents can prevent their children from developing a nicotine addiction.

Studies show that if cigarette smoking continues at the current rate among youth, 5.6 million Americans younger than 18 will die early from a smoking-related illness, according to  The dependence on nicotine that began with cigarettes is now enabled through e-cigarettes.

As of January 21, there have been a total of 2,711 cases of hospitalized patients with issues related to e-cigarette or vaping products from 50 states, the District of Columbia, and two United States territories.  There have been 60 confirmed deaths related to e-cigarettes in the United States, according to

One e-cigarette device that people use is JUUL.  Mr. James Monsees and Mr. Adam Bowen, the co-founders and chief product officers of JUUL Labs, Inc. are former smokers.  Mr. Monsees and Mr. Bowen created JUUL Labs, Inc. with the goal of improving the lives of the world’s one billion adult smokers by eliminating cigarettes, according to

Under the design of their product, JUUL states that they use strong nicotine levels within the e-liquid in order to meet the satisfaction standards of adult smokers.  However, a majority of those who have used JUUL or similar e-cigarette products report that they were younger than 18 years old when they first used the product, according to

The number of hospitalizations due to vape-related lung issues increased during 2019.  Courtesy of

E-cigarettes heat nicotine extracted from tobacco flavorings and other chemicals to create a water vapor that one inhales.  Nicotine is the primary agent in both regular cigarettes and e-cigarettes.  Nicotine is also a toxic substance that raises blood pressure and spikes adrenaline, which further increases one’s heart rate and the likelihood of having a heart attack, according to

Dr. Otero notes that the physical appearance of e-cigarettes and normal cigarettes is not the only difference between the two nicotine products.

“E-cigarettes differ from regular cigarettes in that you don’t light them up.  Instead, they are electronic devices that contain a pod filled with liquid.  That liquid is heated and produces a vapor,” Dr. Otero said.  “Many people don’t know that e-cigarettes contain nicotine and many other cancer-causing chemicals, just like regular cigarettes.  Some of these chemicals include nicotine, heavy metals, formaldehyde, and vitamin E acetate, which sounds healthy, but is actually believed to be one of the chemicals related to recent widespread vaping illnesses that we have been seeing.”

Vaping delivers nicotine to the body, which is highly addictive and can slow brain development in teens.  Nicotine can also affect memory, concentration, and learning, and increase the risk of other types of addiction later in life, according to  E-cigarettes irritate the lungs, which can lead to severe lung damage and possibly death.  The use of these devices can also lead to smoking cigarettes and using other forms of tobacco.

There are several different approaches to reduce the popularity of these devices amongst teens.  Some e-cigarette brands, such as JUUL, have announced youth prevention plans to address the use of their product by a young demographic.  This plan included advocacy for the Tobacco 21 legislation, signed by President Donald Trump November 19, 2019.  This legislation increased the age of sale for tobacco products from 18 to 21.  The plan also includes the restriction of flavors that could be appealing to youths, retail controls to stop the illegal selling to minors, and deleting posts on social media to remove inappropriate use of their product, according to The Wall Street Journal.

Dr. Otero recognizes that the government has taken steps to reduce the use of tobacco and nicotine products, but she believes more can be accomplished to combat the issue.

“Stopping the use of vape products amongst teens is an incredibly difficult task because of the widespread use and lack of knowledge,” Dr. Otero said.  “The government recently raised the minimum age of sale from 18 to 21, meaning that nobody under the age of 21 can legally buy vaping products.  However, more needs to be done in terms of banning flavors, which are so appealing to teenagers.”

There is also a restriction on marketing and media campaigns.  The Federal Drug Association (FDA) has a public health rationale for recommended restrictions on new tobacco product labeling, advertising, marketing, and promotion, which prohibits certain advertisements of nicotine products.  A part of this rationale includes the restriction of marketing ploys to attract young audiences.  This includes any youthful marketing such as cartoons, caricatures, or other designs aimed at attracting minors.  Companies must ensure responsible placement of the product to limit exposure to an underage demographic, according to

Educational media campaigns, such as the American Heart Association, promote tobacco-free lives and are another way to help teenagers understand the long-lasting effects of nicotine.  This nonprofit public health organization works to teach teenagers about how tobacco companies exploit them.  The American Heart Association also provides affordable and accessible smoking cessation programs to help young smokers quit, according to

Mrs. Rosenfeld explains how JUUL and other e-cigarettes contain nicotine and many other harmful chemicals, some of which are carcinogenic.  Mary Dowling ’22

Parents also play a very influential role in their child’s potential use of nicotine, according to  The American Heart Association encourages parents to establish an open dialogue with their children at a young age to talk about cigarettes and other forms of nicotine use.  An important component to stop future generations from falling victim to this addiction is a deep understanding of the irreversible effects combined with model behavior from older influences, according to

Sacred Heart’s presentation explained to parents the risks and facts about vaping among teens.  Mrs. Rosenfeld, the youth program coordinator and a community health educator at Northern Westchester Hospital, led the presentation.

The presentation provided an in-depth explanation of the production and use of vaping products.  Mrs. Rosenfeld began the talk by informing the audience of how vaping began in the United States in 2008, and because of this, long term effects are unknown.  She shared facts and statistics of vaping products and information on marketing compared to other large corporations.  Mrs. Rosenfeld ended by sharing a video, created by former teen vapers, that displays the risks of nicotine addiction and urges its audience to stray away from nicotine products.

While reducing the use of nicotine is difficult due to its addictive properties, many programs and organizations, combined with new laws and legislation, are working to stop teenage nicotine use.

Dr. Otero states how putting an end to teenage vaping is a difficult task, and will require more restrictions and an understanding of the effects of these habits.

“We need to continue educating students and parents about the dangers of vaping and encourage teenagers to do their research.  JUUL, the most popular type of e-cigarette, has made billions of dollars off a product that is known to get teenagers sick,” Dr. Otero said.  “There is something so incredibly wrong about that, and teenagers should know that this is happening.  If students are concerned that a friend is addicted to vaping they should encourage them to talk with a trusted adult who can get them help.”

Featured Image by Mary Dowling ’22