Vaping has been around for some years now and its popularity has spiked in recent times among a younger audience, particularly teens and young adults. 

It’s posed a big question for many teachers, parents and healthcare professionals: why do teens vape? 

In this guide, we take an in-depth look at the reasons why youngsters are vaping, drawing upon the findings of scientific studies and insights from experts. We also look at why allowing teens to vape is a risk and hazard to their health, and what steps you can take to tackle the issue. 

First, let’s take a look at how prevalent vaping is among teens. 

How Many Teens Vape Each Year?

One of the biggest concerns when it comes to teens vaping is that exposure to nicotine, a highly addictive substance, at such a young age, can lead to lifelong addiction. This, in turn, can create health problems, such as lung cancer, which impact not just the individual, but their family, the healthcare system and society as a whole. 

According to the 2023 National Youth Tobacco Survey (NYTS), published by the Centres for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), around 2.13 million middle and high school students used e-cigarettes.  

Out of all of the students who said that they’d used e-cigarettes, 46.7% said they still used them, with 89.4% of them opting for flavored products. 

So in summary, around 2.1 million students vape each year, with the vast majority of them using flavored products manufactured by brands like Elf Bar, JUUL and Mr Frog. 

Why Do Teens Vape? The Key Reasons

There’s no single reason why teens vape. Children at this age experience a great deal, from hormonal shifts to experiencing new schools, making new friends and encountering new pressures.

As a result, the reasons why teens vape are myriad and sometimes complex. Let’s take an in-depth look. 

Peer Pressure

When children reach middle and high school ages, they’re thrust into social situations that they may find uncomfortable. To help them deal with this discomfort, they may alter their behavior to try and fit in with others. This may be to avoid ridicule or to find social acceptance and to build friendships. 

When teens join these groups, one thing they may experience is peer pressure. In some situations, for example, children may be forced by others in the group to take part in behavior like smoking, vaping or drinking alcohol. In order to stay in with the crowd and fit in, they may feel like they have no choice. 

Adverse Childhood Experiences

Adverse Childhood Experiences (ACEs) are incidents during a child’s young life that cause them trauma or distress. This can have a destabilising effect on the individual and may lead them to more damaging behavior, like smoking. 

Examples of ACEs include physical and mental abuse, sexual abuse, and neglect. 

One study by Olaniyan et al (2023) found that children who experience ACEs are more likely to use e-cigarettes compared to children who have never had such an experience. The study found that the more ACEs a child went through, the greater the chance of them using e-cigarettes.

Mental Health

Related to ACEs, mental health issues as a whole can be a reason for teens to vape. Conditions such as depression, anxiety or stress are cited by youngsters who vape, and that vaping helps them cope with the symptoms.

However, there’s an argument to say that the cause of these symptoms in the first place is the nicotine and other chemicals found in vape pens

A study by Chaiton et al (2024) set out to determine if there was a relationship between e-cigarettes and depression among young adults. The results found that those who had increased depression symptoms had a higher vaping dependence. However, there was no clear relationship between the frequency of vaping and depression.  


A great deal of research has been conducted on whether certain personality traits may increase the chances of someone vaping.

One study by Conner et al (2024) looked at a range of different psychological factors and whether they led to an uptake in vaping. The results found that those who are more extroverted and with lower self-control are more likely to vape than others.

Ease Of Access

If a vape pen is easily accessible to a teenager, there’s a chance that they may try it. With vapes coming in a range of tasty flavors and colorful packaging, they’re almost designed for youngsters who may be more susceptible to these features. 

So if a child can buy vapes from local stores or get them from older children or siblings, maybe even stealing them from parents, they run the risk of being exposed to addictive substances like nicotine which may lead them to develop a habit. 

Why Is Vaping Harmful To Teens And Young Adults?

We’ve looked at the different reasons why teens vape, but to gain a full appreciation for the issue, it’s important to understand the harm that they could suffer. 

It’s easy to think that vaping is safe. The government has promoted it as a safer alternative to smoking cigarettes after all. However, chemicals found in cigarettes are still found in e-cigarettes. Synthetic nicotine is also used in many vape pens, as well as other chemicals, such as those found in the flavorings. When heated, these chemicals can react and may cause damage to the respiratory system. 

Some vapers, for example, have ended up in hospital with symptoms similar to pneumonia. 

As we’ve referred to above as well, the chemicals found in vapes, nicotine in particular, also have the potential to cause mental health problems. Given its addictive nature, once withdrawal effects kick in, a person can become irritable, anxious, tense and distracted. These are not traits that serve a young teen or adult well, especially in classrooms while trying to learn. 

How Can You Tackle The Problem?

There are lots of different ways to try and tackle the problem of vaping in teens and young adults. 

Given the surge in the use of vapes among teens, it’s natural to expect that usage to take place in schools as well as at home. It’s therefore important for parents and schools to work side by side to help tackle the issue.  

Let’s look at some ways that you can help address the problem:

This is by no means an exhaustive list of suggestions. However, they’re some of the most effective methods we’ve come across, with the third suggestion on the list the one we have the most experience with. Let’s take a more detailed look at this.

How Our Vape Detectors Help Stop Teens Vaping

Above, we mentioned how vape detectors can help stop teens from vaping, especially in spaces like schools. Here, we wanted to explain how we achieve that with our vape detectors by looking at a case study.

Luling High School decided to install our Triton Sense Vape Detectors on their campus, 27 in all, in the likes of bathrooms, stairwells and locker rooms. Before the detectors were installed, there were around 450 vaping events a week. After 5 weeks of using our vape detectors, that fell to just 151 vaping incidents a week. 

If you’d like to try our vape detectors out, you can request a free demo kit by clicking the button above. And if you have any questions about how our detectors work, please get in touch with us by calling the number at the top of this page, or writing to us here.

Key Takeaways