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Group of teens outside school.

Youth Vaping: Know the Risks and Signs

Originally created to help adults stop smoking, e-cigarettes have evolved into a concerning trend with local youth

Electronic cigarette and vape pen use has become a common practice in many communities and a significant issue at local schools. According to the 2016-2017 California Healthy Kids Survey conducted at South Tahoe Middle and High Schools, 22 percent of eleventh-grade students had used an e-cigarette or vape pen four or more times in the past 30 days. Last year alone, there were 46 vaping-related incidents at South Tahoe Middle School, and one out of every three suspensions at South Tahoe High School involved vape pens.

Although these devices don’t use tobacco, they still contain nicotine—a highly addictive drug. During a process called vaping, users inhale the vapor of a heated liquid, which is made up of nicotine and other chemicals and flavorings. And nicotine isn’t the only substance that can be used; cannabis has been found in e-cigarettes and vape pens, too.

Vape pens and e-cigarettes come packed with health concerns. While many people view vaping as harmless, nicotine is known to cause extensive damage to the cardiovascular system, which can lead to hypertension and heart attacks as well as affect brain development and functioning in young people. Plus, vaping devices can contain additives, such as heavy metals, ultrafi ne particles, and other ingredients, that can contain toxins and cancer-causing carcinogens. Nanoparticles emitted from vape pens cause inflammation that has been linked to asthma, stroke, heart disease, and diabetes.

Parents should be on the lookout for signs of e-cigarette and vape pen use. Follow these tips:

  • Be aware of whiff s of fruity or sweet scents. Vapor does not linger long or have a strong smell, but it is distinct.
  • Look for conspicuous “pens” that aren’t really writing tools and USB or thumb drives that look suspicious. The JUUL vape pen resembles these.
  • Vaping liquid contains propylene glycol, which holds water molecules in their environment and causes dryness. Physical symptoms of vaping include nose bleeds, dry skin, and increased water consumption.
  • Pay attention to signs of nicotine withdrawal, such as mood swings, fatigue, and headaches.

If you suspect your child is vaping, talk openly about how using these products can impact his or her health.


Local Resources to Help Curb Vaping

Tahoe Youth & Family Services
530.541.2445

A Balanced Life
530.544.1748

Lake Tahoe Wellness Institute
775.588.9407

The Mind Realigned
707.365.8008

South Tahoe Drug-Free Coalition Parent Texting Program: Available to any parent in the local area, this service sends text alerts with drug and alcohol information as well as trends or substances that are occurring at local schools. Text the keyword STDFC to 888777 to be automatically added to the text alert list.


The South Tahoe Drug Free Coalition was created to address the high levels of youth substance use in South Lake Tahoe. The Coalition’s primary goals are to reduce youth substance use (specifically alcohol, marijuana, and prescription drugs) while building collaboration within the community.