Skip to main content

Do you know what parents are currently allowing their children to consume? For the past fifty years, cigarette usage trends have been falling at steady rates, but since 2015 the trends are reversing themselves and now climbing due to the popularity of e-cigarettes. The study that we will be looking at details the effects of e-cigarettes on the health of children aged thirteen to seventeen. Children who constantly vape or have used e-cigarettes in the past thirty days are more likely to have several side-effects that can lead to more serious diseases and disorders in the future.

The Addictive Behaviors Journal looked at the health effects of children, from thirteen to seventeen, who used e-cigarettes in the past thirty days. Researchers at the Carolina Survey Research Library collected information on how to best reach youth all over the country with a telephone survey. Those who conducted the study were Jessica King, Beth Reboussin, Julie Merten, Kimberly Wiseman, Kimberly Wagoner, and Erin Sutfin. They were funded by the National Cancer Institute because they were interested in finding different symptoms of e-cigarette usage that can lead to cancer – related diseases. This group of researchers discovered that if they found several common symptoms of e-cigarette usage, they would be able to figure out the overall negative effect these had on children’s health all around the country.

This experiment was conducted all across America in just under a year between 2016 – 2017 but was not published until 2020. The results are important to the greater youth population because the use of e-cigarettes is a very hot topic among the age group discussed in this survey. Children in middle school and high school are constantly being peer pressured by their classmates to try new things such as smoking, but more specifically, in this case, using e-cigarettes. Many people do not actually realize the toxic effects of the contents included in vapes. Looking at the toxic ingredients, such as nicotine and other carcinogens, helps us understand the symptoms that our target audience is suffering from as a result of using e-cigarettes. One such chemical is formaldehyde, which can produce increased levels of nicotine within one pod of an e-cigarette. Formaldehyde is classified as a carcinogen, which can increase the chances of contracting cancer by five to fifteen times because of the formaldehyde-releasing agents that come in contact with the respiratory tract (Jensen RP, 2015). These toxins can lead to cancer, which can ultimately be lethal to your young child.

The procedure began with a telephone survey of 975 children, ages thirteen to seventeen, from across the US. The survey was composed of questions that asked whether these children had ever attempted to use e-cigarettes recently. Then they were asked if they exhibited one or many of the six symptoms thought to be associated with e-cigarette use: a cough, dizziness or lightheadedness, a headache or migraine, a dry or irritated mouth or throat, shortness of breath, and a change in or loss of taste (King J et al, 2020). These symptoms were measured as a comparison between those who had used e-cigarettes in the past thirty days and those who had not used them within that period of time. The survey also looked at the effects of tobacco use in tangency with the demographics of the users.

The results concluded that 12.4% of the sample population had used e-cigarettes at least once. There were respondents from thirty-four states across the United States. The majority of respondents were sixteen-year-old white males. Only 37% had used e-cigarettes in the past thirty days. Coughs, resulting from inhaling the nicotine fumes, were the most common symptom among this age group. The students who had used e-cigarette products in the past thirty days had a higher chance of having one or more of the symptoms associated with this study. There seemed to be no significant difference among those of different gender, race, or other demographic backgrounds (King J et al, 2020). These results are crucial as we begin to further our research which can detail how these side effects of e-cigarette usage can lead to long term diseases such as pulmonary disease and cancer.

Administering a telephone survey led to several flaws such as the weighted response rate. The weighted response rate of 33% meant that the survey was not effective enough at gathering holistic information on the health effects of youth who use e-cigarettes. They admitted to using a convenience sample survey, which is a social desirability bias. The children could have lied over the phone about experiencing no symptoms associated with e-cigarette use. The authors said that they were also unaware of the type of device used, the brand used, or the flavor preferred which could have led to differences in symptoms. The study admitted that it was a small sample size compared to the number of children in this age group who use e-cigarettes across the US. The authors agreed that a massive downfall was that this study was conducted before the huge increase in the purchase of JUUL products in 2018. Another source details the negative effects of the JUUL market because e-cigarettes can be used discreetly and come in several flavors. Companies use multiple flavors to entice young audiences to purchase their pods (Kuehn B, 2019). In the future, the study could improve by asking more detailed questions about the types of e-cigarettes used amongst a much larger sample size of the population. If the response rate could be increased, it would encourage a much more accurate study in the future.

This study was responding to previous research done on the effects of nicotine products, such as cigarettes, in the body. A study was done prior to this one discussed, detailing how nicotine causes the initiation of a reward system within the brain. This reward system is used in many other addictive behaviors such as other drugs, alcohol, and sometimes even caffeine. This mechanism in the brain causes people to experience severe withdrawal effects (Sanner T et al, 2015). When these people attempt to refrain from using e-cigarettes, the reward system is stimulated to encourage more nicotine intake. This background information on the role that nicotine plays in the body allows us to understand why it is hard for many children to just quit smoking e-cigarettes.

Vaping could potentially cause cancer-based on the symptoms that students have reported as a result of using e-cigarettes. High school students have had a 78% increase in the use of e-cigarettes between 2017 – 2018 (Kuehn B, 2019). This drastic usage is having a major effect on our young students in our communities. Addictive behaviors can lead to underperformance in school and more importantly premature death. What are we doing to help the children of today? By campaigning and making students and parents aware of the contents in e-cigarettes, we might be able to reverse the trend and fight one of the highest leading causes of cancer-related deaths.



Jensen RP, Luo W, Pankow JF, Strongin RM, Peyton DH. 2015. Hidden formaldehyde in e-cigarette aerosols. New England Journal of Medicine. [accessed 2020 Jan 27];372(4):392–394. doi:10.1056/nejmc1413069.

King J, Reboussin B, Merten J, Wiseman K, Wagoner J, Sutfin E. 2020. Negative health symptoms reported by youth e-cigarette users: Results from a national survey of US youth. Addictive Behaviors. [accessed 2020 Jan 27];104(1):106315.

Kuehn B. 2019. Youth e-cigarette use. JAMA. [accessed 2020 Jan 20];321(2):138. doi:10.1001/jama.2018.20655.

Sanner T, Grimsrud T. 2015. Nicotine: carcinogenicity and effects on response to cancer treatment – a review. Frontiers in Oncology. [accessed 2020 February 4];5(1). doi:10.3389/fonc.2015.00196.

Featured Image:

Print Friendly, PDF & Email
Comments are closed.