Teen vaping is quickly going from the latest craze to an epidemic—and what they're smoking could be laced with formaldehyde and antifreeze.

Killer Vapor: Your Vaping Teen Could Be Sucking Up Formaldehyde and Antifreeze

Lynn Armitage

I’m not a smoker, never have been. Unless you count all the candy cigarettes I inhaled as a teenager. They were cylindrical sticks of gum, rolled up in white paper, and the coolest thing was that when you blew on them, small clouds of sugar would puff out like smoke. They weren’t real cigarettes, but it was fun to pretend they were.

“Now you can look just like dad!” the enticing slogan on the package proclaimed.

Candy cigarettes have pretty much been laughed off the shelves as those faux-smokers have matured into today’s generation of parents. But after finding my daughter’s vape pen when she forgot to hide it from me, I’d like to start a campaign to bring those fake death sticks back.

Because these so-called vape pens are SCARY stuff, people!

For the unenlightened parents, like I was, vape pens are just another iteration of an e-cigarette, an electronic nicotine delivery system. They are devices about the size of a large cigar, made up of three components: a liquid cartridge, a rechargeable battery and a heating element (atomizer) that heats a flavored liquid, which may or may not contain nicotine. The heat turns the liquid into a vapor, and you inhale it. Sounds innocuous enough.

As my 17-year-old daughter said, “It’s not smoking. It’s vaping.”

Vaping has completely caught me off guard, but it is now all the rage among teenagers. According to a 2014 Monitoring the Future study, for the first time ever, more teens are using e-cigarettes than traditional tobacco cigarettes or other tobacco products.

“As one of the newest smoking-type products in recent years, e-cigarettes have made rapid inroads into the lives of American adolescents,” said Richard Miech, a senior investigator of the study. “Part of the reason for the popularity of e-cigarettes is the perception among teens that they do not harm health.”

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) has also weighed in with its 2014 National Youth Tobacco Survey released on April 16, claiming that e-cigarette use among middle- and high school students tripled between 2013 and 2014. While the CDC did not have e-cigarette data specific to Native youth, the organization’s most recent Youth Risk Behavior Survey reports that 62.3 percent of American Indian or Alaska Native high school students have tried cigarette smoking, and 24.6 percent are current smokers.

Even my own daughter, who has always been disgusted by cigarettes, has been completely sucked in by all the pretty, colorful packaging, fun flavors and what appears to be a dangerous trend. It’s dangerous because not much is known about the long-term effects of vaping and e-cigarettes, which have their origin in China and made their way to the States around 2007. The few studies that are around will tell you that more studies need to be done.

The Food and Drug Administration (FDA), which has regulated e-cigarettes for therapeutic purposes only, claims on its website that “e-cigarettes have not been fully studied, so consumers currently don’t know the potential risks of e-cigarettes when used as intended; how much nicotine or other potentially harmful chemicals are being inhaled during use, or whether there are any benefits associated with using these products.”

Like my daughter, many teens—and habitual adult smokers as well—think vaping is far safer than smoking.

“It’s just sugar water, Mom,” said my daughter, who buys vaping juices that claim to be nicotine-free. She likes that the juices come in all her favorite flavors—birthday cake, pink lemonade and spiced chai latte.

And parents … that’s the real problem here. With no government regulation over the manufacturing of these e-liquids, nobody knows with any certainty what is really in them. Sure, it can say “nicotine-free” on the label, but how can you be sure? There are no accountability measures in place, so anyone could concoct these flavored juices in their bathtubs, slap an alluring label on them and sell them as fun, harmless sugar water to unsuspecting, uninformed, vulnerable young customers such as my daughter, who falls all over herself for anything that tastes or smells like a bakery confection.

In other words, she could very well be ingesting nicotine and getting addicted to it, and not even know it.

Some critics of vaping and e-cigarettes believe these products are an attempt by the tobacco industry to groom the next generation of smokers in what has become a $3 billion global industry. On Kaiser Permanente’s Don’t Buy the Lie website, e-cigarettes are the hot topic.

“Just because the vapor is white and doesn’t smell doesn’t mean that chemicals aren’t present,” said Tamara Wilgus, a project manager in Kaiser’s health education department. “Nicotine is odorless and tasteless, and the added flavors are used by these companies to attract youth.”

Tobacco companies haven’t given up on addicting people, she added. “They’re just using new tools.”


You need to be logged in in order to post comments
Please use the log in option at the bottom of this page



VapingRican's picture
Submitted by VapingRican on
Lynn Armitage, if you are a real journalist then you will do your due diligence instead of locking step with Big Tobacco talking points. There are plenty of studies articles etc that put to rest the propaganda that the oligarchs are spreading just because they stand to lose a substantial amount of profit... this is just one of the studies I suggest you read:

guitarcollector008's picture
Submitted by guitarcollector008 on
I see that you keep harping on the "kid-friendly" flavors, have you been in a liquor store lately? Cotton candy vodka? Really. As a parent myself, I totally understand the concern for our children, but you really should educate yourself on a subject before you go publishing an article like this. The effects of inhaled propylene glycol have been studied since 1939 in this country, & have never been deemed harmful, as a matter of fact, they have been found helpful. Vaporized PG (propylene glycol) has been pumped into hospitals for over 50 years, you see it is heavier than oxygen, and when it is introduced into room air it carries germs/bacteria to the floor so we don't breathe it. It is also a carrier of ventolin/albuterol in the medications for asthma patients. VG (vegetable glycerine) is used in many foods, flavorings, medicines, shampoo, etc.... These being the two main ingredients in e-juice, they are perfectly harmless, & I can assure you that you, & your family use them safely everyday. With that being said, as a Native American, & a pack a day smoker for over 20 years, I will tell you what these miracle products have done for me. I stopped smoking 2 years ago thanks to vaping. I bought a starter kit with some 24mg nicotine juice, & I have not smoked a cigarette since that day. I have dropped my nicotine level down to 3mg since then, & I will decrease it even more soon. I do not stink like cigarettes anymore, I don't cough up a huge ball of flem every morning anymore, I don't have trouble climbing stairs anymore, I can even run again, I can get on a treadmill and run for miles. Are these products harmful? Absolutely not! Do I think minors under 18 should be using them? Absolutely not! I don't think vendors should sell to them at all, but if the day ever comes when I catch my son vaping, I will be relieved that he is not smoking because there is that difference. You know, the difference between life and death.

Elaine Keller
Elaine Keller
Submitted by Elaine Keller on
Kaiser's Wilgus is, at best, uninformed when she states, "the added flavors are used by these companies to attract youth." Flavors of some type are necessary because the liquid is tasteless unless something is added. At first, the only flavors available were "tobacco" and "menthol". Smokers, looking for a less hazardous delivery method for their nicotine, complained that these flavors were a far cry from the taste of their favorite cigarettes. Manufacturers responded to this feedback by offering more pleasant flavors. Consumers then discovered something quite surprising. Those who became attached to flavors such as peach, bubblegum, or English toffee found that when they tried to puff on a conventional cigarette, it tasted totally nasty! As one who smoked for 45 years and who was able to achieve smoke-free status over 6 years ago thanks to e-cigarettes (after dozens of failed attempts), I speak from experience. There is no way I would ever go back to smoking. I gradually lost interest in using the e-cigarette, too, because, as research has indicated, they have a lot lower "abuse liability" than smoking. So it is highly unlikely that non-smokers will become addicted to nicotine via e-cigarettes. It hasn't happened with nicotine patches and gum. The idea that the flavors are there to attract kids is nothing but fear formed into falsehoods that keep proliferating. There are still 42 millions smokers to convert to e-cigarettes. That's a huge potential market. There's no need to sell to kids. And it's really very sad that unscrupulous researchers have figured out ways to rig experiments to make e-cigarettes appear to be hazardous, such as overheating equipment to produce levels of formaldehyde never seen in actual use--and then to compound the problem by claiming that e-cigarettes are more likely to cause cancer than inhaling smoke. Do you really believe that? Unfortunately these fear mongers have managed to convince many many smokers that it would be better for them to continue smoking. That borders on criminal malpractice, if you ask me. Do a little more research, Ms. Armitage. Ask all the local hospitals how many e-cigarette consumers have been admitted with formaldehyde or anti-freeze poisoning. I'm fairly positive the number is zero. I'm not saying that parents shouldn't keep an eye on their kids, discourage any risky behavior, and keep all poisonous substances out of reach of children (Note: More kids under age 5 are poisoned by eating conventional cigarettes than by drinking e-liquid.) I am saying, let's double-check all of the information coming our way for accuracy and by applying common sense. I'm also saying, let's not throw out the baby with the bathwater. Former smokers who switched to a pleasant-tasting e-cigarette flavor are much less likely to go back to smoking than someone who quit by using nicotine patches or gum. There is no need to outlaw the one feature that has proved to be most effective in preventing relapse.

TSVape's picture
Submitted by TSVape on
I almost mistook this for an Onion article. There's so many lies and displays of utter ignorance here, it's hard to know where to start. Let's hit a few: "Parents, did you catch that? Do we really want our sons and daughters inhaling nontoxic antifreeze used in fog machines into their pure lungs?" Please, stop with the fake pseudoscience. PG turns to water vapor. They're not inhaling PG. And even if they were, we've known for over 70 decades that aerosol PG is not only safe, but it's used for air disinfection by hospitals TO THIS DAY. Science fail #1 for you. Formaldehyde? You parrot a debunked study that has been grossly distorted that the author of the study has slammed people like you for this. Dr Peyton of PSU has admitted the test was faulty and is currently doing a revised study with proper methodology and equipment this time. The supposed formaldehyde found was a result of conditions no vaper would experience without trying really hard to destroy their equipment. Much like Food Babe and other junk science outlets, you fail to mention that the human body is full of formaldehyde. It's in every breath we exhale, and our blood is 2.5ppm formaldehyde by volume. Science fail #2 for you. 'Past 30 day' cigarette smoking among all high school students (9th - 12th grade) per the recent CDC study: 2011 - 15.8% 2012 - 14.0% 2013 - 12.7% 2014 - 9.5% 'Past 30 day' e-cig use among all high school students (9th - 12th grade) 2011 - 1.5% 2012 - 2.8% 2013 - 4.5% 2014 - 13.4% is vaping a 'gateway to smoking'? Not one statistical analysis can find that to be supportable anywhere in the study. Science fail #3. Flavors? This little Wicocomico is 42. I like flavors, too. Am I just young at heart? Polling proves that flavor availability is the top reason PEOPLE WHO QUIT SMOKING stay with vaping. Your argument of 'it's for the children' is specious and disingenuous. As I wander aisles of flavored vodkas and candy-flavored nicotine gums and lozenges, the laughably false nature of your proclamations become even more clear. Let's apply your "for the children" argument to root beer... As an aside, I noticed that a cigarette manufacturer is moving to Oneida country. That wouldn't have anything to do with Ms Armitage suddenly spouting a pro-Big Tobacco line, would it? Vaping is NOT smoking. Nicotine is NOT tobacco. When your kids eat nicotine-laden foods like tomatoes, eggplant, and potatoes; aren't you afraid they'll become addicted and start smoking? Here's another fun bit of science for you. This article is so full of lies, half-truths, and silly delusional crap... I'm appalled, personally. Ms Armitage says "Get educated, stay informed"... but evidently, that applies to us, not her. Yes, get educated. This article is the exact opposite of that. Shame on you for running this hyperbolic (and hyperfalse) anti-science drivel. A few minutes of research could have saved you the embarrassment of running a provably lying story.