Vaping is on the rise among high school athletes

September 3, 2019

High school students have largely rejected smoking. About eight percent of them currently smoke, that’s a 73% drop since 2000. They’ve realized smoking doesn’t help them in the classroom nor on the field. Smoking does severe damage to the heart and lungs, making any athletic endeavor all the more challenging.

Vaping, however, is on the rise among high school students. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) reports a 78% increase in the number of teens using vaping products from 2017-2018. Kids think they’re inhaling and exhaling water vapor, but they’re actually ingesting highly concentrated amounts of dangerous chemicals.

A condition known as “popcorn lung” is a common occurrence associated with vaping. Those who develop it report a repetitive dry cough, shortness of breath and wheezing. While these symptoms would negatively affect anyone, lung disease can be career-ending for a young athlete. The CDC is currently investigating 149 cases involving young people who were hospitalized after using e-cigarettes.

What can parents and coaches do?

Do as you would with every other potentially harmful product to children. Keep your eyes open. Check lockers, gym bags, etc. where applicable. E-cigarettes don’t have a distinct odor like traditional cigarettes. You won’t smell it on them or in their clothes when you do laundry. Chances are you’ve seen a vaping cartridge or a vape pen and just didn’t know it. Many look like USB drives or a cool writing pen. Talk to your kids about vaping. Let them know it’s not water vapor. Even if they don’t use e-cigarettes or are hesitant to admit they may be using, let them know in no uncertain terms how you feel about the practice. Tell them about the dangers.

Image: Vaping's effect on teen athletes
Used vaping cartridges found by one mom.


The American Heart Association warns against viewing vaping as a safe alternative to smoking. The organization promotes using proven methods for anyone who truly wants to quit smoking and advises parents to do everything possible to deter kids from starting. Most vaping products contain concentrated levels of nicotine, making them as addictive as traditional cigarettes. Nicotine can damage the adolescent brain, so combined with the risks to the respiratory system, kids should steer clear of vaping, no matter how cool it looks.

Vaping, like smoking, can end a promising athletic career before it starts. Any athlete’s best ability his their availability. E-cigarettes can hinder that most sacred ability. Don’t let vaping put your kid on the bench.

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