Vaping nicotine can sideline young athletes. You can help keep them in the game.
The Price of Vaping Nicotine
Logan was a young athlete who started vaping. After a few months, she felt so bad she didn’t want to leave her house. Isaak was a football player with dreams of competing in college, but vaping made him feel like he was going to have a heart attack. Playing softball and volleyball made Gabby feel special and included, but she lost her sense of self-control and accomplishment due to vaping. After Max got addicted to vaping, he dropped focus on baseball and got suspended from school.
These are the real stories of four student athletes whose athletic dreams and abilities were deeply impacted by vaping nicotine. They are cautionary tales for teens and their teachers about the importance of avoiding vaping and living nicotine free. Many teens will face similar challenges, but youth vaping is preventable, and teachers like you can help.
Vaping Can Be Harmful to Youth
We know that millions of students use e-cigarettes, and that vaping can harm youth. Listed below are known dangers related to youth who vape.
- Youth who vape may experience health problems such as wheezing, nausea, vomiting, headaches, and dizziness.
- Vaping can expose users to toxic chemicals that can harm the lungs, such as lead, chromium, and nickel. Other chemicals found in some e-cigarette aerosols (what users inhale) include formaldehyde and acetaldehyde, which can cause irreversible lung damage if inhaled.
- Nicotine can rewire a teen’s brain to crave more nicotine and can create addiction.
Check out this FDA fact sheet for more information on the dangers vaping poses to youth.
Vaping and Youth Athletes: An Emerging Issue
Some young athletes who vaped nicotine, like those highlighted in the real stories above, found that it harmed their health and performance. The effects of vaping on youth is a focus for researchers, youth sports coaches, federal government agencies, and the media. Research continues to be conducted to learn how vaping can affect physical performance.
- A study about the physical fitness of young men who use tobacco products found that men who vaped reported running slower and doing fewer push-ups and sit-ups compared to men who never vaped or smoked.
- A review of published literature focusing on the effects vaping on athletes noted that routine e-cigarette use may have an impact on cardiovascular and pulmonary systems.
- National and regional media have published stories about the difficult experiences of teen athletes who vape and the dangers e-cigarettes pose to youth.
8 Tips to Help Young Athletes Defeat Vaping
As a coach or a teacher, you’re in an excellent position to help young athletes understand the risks of vaping. Your skills and experiences preparing for class or getting teens ready for game day can extend to coaching youth away from nicotine addiction.
- Study the opposition. Get the facts about vaping, and then share what you learn with your students and athletes. Check out the teachers and parents sections at FDA’s Vaping Prevention and Education Resource Center for fact sheets about youth vaping, videos with pediatricians, and other resources to help you learn how to start and revisit an open conversation with teens.
- Know the lineup of vape devices. Learnhow to identify vapes and “stealth” e-cigarettes. Teens may use vapes that look like other objects, such as smart watches. Find out how vapes work and how to spot these devices.
- Defend against youth vaping. Be proactive and address the dangers of vaping as part of your teaching and coaching strategy. Include vaping prevention in your guidance on physical fitness, conditioning, diet, and game preparation.
- Study the film. Show young athletes the cautionary stories from other teen athletes. Make review and discussion of these stories part of your classes and practice sessions. Ask students to research media reports about how vaping affects youth athletes for a team discussion, or as part of a class assignment about the dangers of nicotine.
- Be ready to spot symptoms of nicotine addiction. During a game, you know when a player is tired and needs to come off the field. In class, you know when a student is distracted. You can also learn to identify signs of vape use and addiction. Common signs of vaping addiction include an inability to stop vaping or feeling anxious or irritable due to cravings when not vaping. These may signal that a teen needs help.
- Lead by example. You teach and coach within tobacco-free environments, but it’s important to always be tobacco-free around teens. If you need help quitting, visit smokefree.gov.
- Foster a team spirit. Encourage healthy habits and preparation as a key part of classroom and athletic culture. Spotlight the fact that vaping nicotine can decrease athletic performance. At the same time, remember that teens who use nicotine need help from caring adults—and their teammates. Be open to teens’ questions about vaping, urge them to support their peers’ efforts to quit, and visit FDA’s Tobacco Education Resource Library to find up-to-date resources for you to share with teens as you continue the conversation.
- Huddle with parents. Tell parents and caregivers that your lessons and coaching sessions include messages about the risks of vaping. Mention the topic during parent-teacher conferences, pickups and drop-offs, or PTA meetings. Share links to resources you find helpful so parents can study the topic and talk with teens at home.
Young Athletes Need Opportunities to Excel, Not Added Pressure
Whether youth athletes are highly competitive on the starting squad or playing just for fun, they don’t need added pressures. Balancing school with extracurricular activities like sports can be stressful, and vaping nicotine can hamper their goals. With help from teachers and coaches like you, teens can avoid nicotine and strive for their healthiest and fullest potential.
We Can Stop Nicotine Addition Before It Starts
At FDA, we see a future in which tobacco-related disease is part of the past, helping to ensure a healthier life for every family. Our aim is to provide science-based resources for families and teens that will make our vision a reality. For more information, visit www.fda.gov/youthvapingresources.