Many kids start vaping in middle school, continue through high school, and eventually start smoking conventional cigarettes, according to the Colorado Department of Health & Environment’s Healthy Kids Colorado Survey.

One reason for the teens’ continued use of vapes is because they are addicted. More than 50% of the teens surveyed who reported vaping within the past 30 days said they had tried to quit the habit at some point during the past year. Vapes contain nicotine, a highly addictive chemical. Vape companies have been blamed for addicting an entire generation to nicotine by luring them to their products with flavored e-liquids and using social media influencers popular with teens to promote their products.

The tactics worked. According to the study, about one in four Colorado teens has vaped at least once in the past month. And the vapers are getting younger. The study found 11% of eighth-graders claim to regularly vape.

Vaping to buzz

“Well, it’s pretty jarring. Pretty much everybody I know and hang out with vapes, or is addicted to nicotine,” Alden Burt, a rising senior at Gunnison High School told CPR News. Burt said he began vaping the summer before ninth grade. “We weren’t vaping to vape,” he said. “We were vaping to buzz, you know, for the nicotine.”

Burt says despite the pleasure vaping gives him, he does worry about the toll it could take on his mental and physical health. “It’s a lot of nicotine, straight into your brain whenever you want it.”

Two years ago, when the study was last done, Colorado emerged as the teen vaping capital. The trend has continued. And it’s gotten worse. Vaping is not only driving teens to conventional cigarettes, it’s also leading them to marijuana. Thirty-four percent of those surveyed said they had “dabbed” concentrated THC in the past 30 days compared to 20% two years earlier.

When Burt’s mother, Mary, learned her son was vaping, she discovered just how rampant the teen vaping problem was. “It’s so common that the school’s principal literally had to remove the doors from the bathroom to prevent students from vaping in there,” she said.

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