Vaping and What Teens Have to Share
Updated: Jul 11, 2019
As a social media safety and digital literacy company who has presented to over 440,000 teens from across Canada and the USA, over the past couple of years we have been inundated with questions from parents, teachers, law enforcement, and even the students themselves, about teen vaping. Although there are some good articles available online, very few, if any, include any teen input. Recently, I also read a document that was being distributed to parents in Canada asking that it be forwarded to schools. The author was comparing the use and sales of vapes by teens to drug dealers, insinuating that teens are making significant profit margins on their sales.
If there is one thing that we have learned as a company, if you want to know the who, what, where, why, and how of teen culture, go ask the teens themselves, and that’s exactly what we did. Given that we have thousands of teens that follow us on a variety of social media platforms, we asked for volunteers who would be willing to speak with us voluntarily and provide their take on vaping. We had hundreds of responses from students across Canada and the United States, and we conducted just over 20 hours of one-to-one online interviews. What we learned from these students about vaping was amazing, enlightening, educational, and at times a little disturbing and we think you, the reader, will as well. Knowledge, and the understanding and application of that knowledge is power. There is too much disinformation about vaping when it comes to parenting on this important topic, thus the reason for this article. It is our hope that the information in this article will provide some more insight for parents, educators, and law enforcement.
So, What Is Vaping?
Vaping is when a person uses an electronic device to inhale and exhale a liquid that has been heated and turned into an aerosol, also called a “vapour.”
There are three primary electronic devices, known as “mods” that are used to vape:
#1: Unregulated Mechanical Mod Vapes (also known as a “mech” or “box mod”):
These rebuildable devices are usually square and about the size of a deck of cards. These box mods contain the batteries and chipset needed to control wattage to a coil that becomes heated and turns the vaping liquid, also known as “juice,” into an aerosol to be inhaled. A user can also outfit this mod unit with their own coil, tank (the container that holds the juice), and a mouth piece. For teens looking to create a big vape cloud when they exhale, an Unregulated Mechanical Mode Vape is preferred. Given how these mods are built and designed, they are very durable and not prone to breakage. According to the teens interviewed, these types of mods can average between $40.00 to $100.00 to purchase depending upon the product.
SMOK Brand Box Mod
#2: Regulated Mod Vapes (also known as “Pod Mods”):
These are non-rebuildable mods that usually have a built-in power source and coil that cannot be reprogramed. These vapes are much smaller, lighter, and very concealable which makes them more prone to breakage and therefore need to be replaced more frequently when compared to a box mod. The juice that is vaporized is pre-loaded in a juice pod, which some have stated looks like a small USB stick, and is loaded into the front of the mod. Although many juice pods are one usage only (like Juul pods), others allow the owner to refill for multiple uses. According to the teens interviewed, these units cost between $30.00 to $50.00 depending on the product. These mods are also becoming more popular given that they are easily concealable when at school or home. Several students stated to me that given the small size of some of these pod mods, students are actually using them in class. When I asked how they could do this without a teacher seeing the vapour cloud, I was told about a vaping technique called “ghosting.” Ghosting is when a person will inhale from a pod mod that they hide in their hoodie sleeve, hold it in their lungs longer than normal, which reduces the cloud effect (if any), upon exhalation. Teens stated that this technique works well with pod mods, given they do not put out as much of a vape cloud as the above noted box mod.
JUUL Brand Pod Mod
BREEZE Brand Pod Mod
NOVO brand Pod Mod
#3: Dabbing Mod:
A rarer vaping device is called a “Dabbing Mod.” Dabbing is teen slang for vaping marijuana oil. Many teens called this type of mod a “dabbing pen” and stated that they will only use a dabbing pen to vape marijuana oil and not the flavoured juices. So those who dab will usually have two mods, one for juices and one for dabbing. Dabbing pens are usually thin and look like a pen.
Juices are the liquids that teens will use in a mod that is then vaporized and inhaled and then exhaled. The most popular juices are usually fruit flavoured and have a sweet scent when exhaled. Many students stated that you know when someone has vaped in a school bathroom because there is a sweet smell in the air.
Juices come in two forms:
#1: Small plastic bottles with names like Banana Rama, Orange Crush, or Blue Lagoon. The liquids from these bottles, that come in many different colours, are then used to self-fill the “tank” on an unregulated mechanical mod vape (usually a clear holding space near the mouth piece).
#2: Small USB looking pods that are usually preloaded with a flavoured juice that can only be used once (like a Juul pod) or some manufactures are making these pods refillable which is attractive to teens from a cost-saving standpoint.
Most juices, according to the teens, can cost between $10-$20 per bottle. If the student isn’t needing a full bottle of juice, they will ask a student who has a juice bottle for a “fill.” Meaning they will fill the tank on their mod for between $2.00 to $5.00. Sometimes they will get a fill for free as long as the purchaser allows them to take a hit from the vape.
Juices come in two primary types:
#1: Non-nicotine based juice, or
#2: Nicotine based juice also known as Nic Salts.
Most teens when they start vaping will use non-nicotine based flavoured juices. Almost all the teens stated that after they became experienced with vaping, they quickly moved to nicotine-based juices, also known as “Nic Salts” which have only been around for about 4 years now. When we asked why, all stated because it’s a good way to get a “heady.” A heady is the lightheaded nicotine buzz that you get when you inhale a nic salt. The teens reported out that a heady will last between one to two minutes. The higher the nic salt percentage, the greater the buzz. This reminds us of when we were in middle school, some students would use something called “Rush” (isobutyl nitrate) that was sold in “head shops” as a legal way to do the same thing. Several teens shared with us that middle school students will often “nic out” or get “nic sick” in school bathrooms because they have inhaled too much from a nic salt pod or juice, that causes them to black out or even vomit. As most adults understand, the more nicotine one ingests, the more you will need to experience a heady. What started out as a way to get a recreational buzz, now can quickly turn into a nicotine addiction. Stanford University conducted research into the impact of tobacco and nicotine, and they found that some of the nic salt juices, or a one-use nic pod cartridge, could often contain more nicotine than a whole pack of cigarettes. There is no doubt that the pod mod known as “Juul” really started the nic salt (nicotine) arms race when it comes to nicotine vaping. This is especially true in the US where Juul is far more popular with teens than it is up here in Canada right now. Having said this, all juice and pod manufacturers now sell high concentration ni