Vapes: The issue hidden in plain sight, slowly destroying teen lives

Queensland teenagers are pulling out their vapes, unknowingly damaging their physical and mental health, in a bid to seem “cool” to their mates.

Jul 29, 2022, updated Jul 29, 2022
Image: Karl Edwards/Unsplash

Image: Karl Edwards/Unsplash

E-cigarettes, also known as vapes, are constantly being used by children and teenagers in Queensland as young as 10. The vapes contain many harmful things such as flavourings, heavy metals and most severely, nicotine.

Nicotine can cause an increased heart rate, increased blood pressure and a narrowing of the arteries. Nicotine can even cause heart attacks, which are potentially fatal.

Teenagers tend to ignore, or shrug their shoulders when they hear someone tell them about the problems of vaping so young.

Ava Kelly, a student at Yeronga State High School, is one such teenager.

“Vaping is good in ways because it makes you less stressed, and it has different flavours that taste good. If you like vaping, why should you have to stop?” she said.

Vaping can make illnesses such as asthma and other existing lung diseases worse. The lungs can be affected in irreversible, and potentially deadly ways.

Dr Scott Burgess, co-founder of the Queensland Children’s Lung and Sleeps Specialists, has his professional opinion on the matter.

“E-cigarette use has been associated with frequent mild changes in the lungs and less commonly severe damage. Sadly, sometimes the damage is very serious and some people have died.

“The reasons why teenagers vape are complex and there may be many reasons. Peer pressure is an extremely strong influence, teenagers often want to fit in and may do something because their friends also do it.”

Lesser known than the physical effects of vaping are the mental effects that also occur.

E-cigarettes can slow brain development in kids and teenagers’ brains. Vapes can also affect memory, concentration, self-control and moodiness.

Mini Anil, a social worker, recalls her experience with a teenager who vapes.

“I have an NDIS participant who vapes and later he started smoking. He stole money from his grandma’s purse and we had to get the police involved. He has been attending therapy to recover from vaping.

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“There are huge problems mentally when you vape. Vaping affects the brain development and this can cause problems with memory and problems solving skills.”

So, if there are so many issues with vaping, why isn’t anyone doing anything to stop them?

In Australia, about 14 per cent of teenagers aged 12-17 have used a vape. But only around 7 per cent of parents know that their teen has used an e-cigarette before.

Parents also tend to not know what to do once they catch their teenager vaping. They usually dismiss it, or punish their kids without really ever talking to their teenager about why they’re getting punished.

A mother of a teen herself says what she would do if she found her child vaping.

“I wouldn’t be surprised if I saw my teen vaping because vaping is not uncommon in teenagers. I would let the school know what’s going on and then I would discuss with them the consequences of vaping and get advice from the school counsellor,” she said.

Vaping has an unrelenting grasp on the teenagers in Queensland. The ‘fun flavours’ and ‘mates pressuring you to just have a go’ makes them all so simple to quickly get addicted to.

So next time you want to use an e-cigarette, just stop to think:

What’s so good about a vape in the first place?

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