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Our Teens Need to Hear the Truth about Vaping

Our ignorance on the subject exposes our children to the greatest dangers involved with vaping


Recently, at one of my anti-vaping seminars in Florida, a Jewish woman in the audience raised her hand while I was presenting a segment on the medical and psychological issues involved with teenage marijuana use. She asked if she could have the microphone to tell the audience of over 140 about a tragic event that occurred with her 15-year-old son. This woman was attending the seminar to learn more about what had happened to her son at school. I handed her the microphone.

“I am the mother of a 15-year-old boy in middle school,” she began. “My son is bright, curious, and an honors student. He has always been able to resist peer pressure and stay away from drugs. That is, until one day about six weeks ago.

“One early afternoon at school, my son accepted a ‘vape pen’ from one of his friends and decided to take a couple of drags from the device, to be cool like the other kids who had been vaping for months already. My son had never tried cigarettes, vape pens, or marijuana before. Immediately after taking three drags from the vape pen, he began to feel ill and, within 90 seconds, was unconscious on the floor. One of the other boys had the good sense to call for a teacher, as they thought my son could die in the bathroom.

“After the paramedics arrived and stabilized my son, they transported him to the hospital, where he regained consciousness about six hours later. When the police found the device that sent my son to the hospital, they tested the cartridge and found that it contained 90 percent THC ‘vape juice.’ The ER physician told me that we were lucky my son did not die from cardiac arrest or have a stroke from such a high dose of THC. He further explained that he sees this reaction all the time in the pediatric ER with high THC concentrations in teenagers.

“My son is now on probation, involved with the Florida juvenile court system, and the school has ruled that if he has one more ‘drug’ incident, he will be expelled. This is the consequence of his ‘one time’ yielding to peer pressure with a marijuana vape pen.”

I could, unfortunately, fill a thick book with stories like this about Jewish teenagers and beis medrash students that I have heard personally from parents and psychologists in the last six years at my lectures. I have met Jewish teens who are so addicted to nicotine and THC they sleep with vapes under their pillow and need to vape in the middle of the night to fall back asleep. Here are some facts that parents, teachers, and roshei yeshivah need to understand:

  1. There is a remarkable absence of credible information about the real effects of vaping and marijuana on our society. Our kids who use these substances will succumb to addiction, schizophrenia, psychosis, and, G-d forbid, suicidal ideation.
  2. The vast majority of today’s marijuana is either smoked or vaped, which is extremely dangerous given the massive increase in potency available. I have personal knowledge of three young people who have died from fentanyl-tainted vapes they believed were just nicotine or marijuana.
  3. These vaping issues are an immediate and growing crisis for the Jewish community. Our children, potentially those who are looking to try vaping marijuana for the first time, are bombarded with messages that marijuana is “legal and safe.” We need to get to them first with the correct messaging. Vapes can be purchased virtually anywhere.

Here is a second recent story from a principal at one of my lectures in a New York yeshivah day school.

“Things were different just a few years ago. If I were to walk into a bathroom, I would smell either tobacco smoke or marijuana smoke and find the bochurim smoking either cigarettes or joints. This is not the case anymore. Now, when I walk into these areas, I smell fruits and candies. These vape pens are filled with either nicotine or marijuana compounds impregnated with things like cucumber, mango, coconut, and bubblegum flavorings. These are the new smells of the teenage vaping epidemic.

“There is not a day that goes by in the school where I do not confiscate some modern type of vaping device, emitting these smells from the chemicals in the vape juice. I have found over 25 different vaping devices this year, some of them tiny and very sophisticated, that the students purchased online. It is also happening on school buses and field trips. Sometimes, you cannot distinguish between suntan lotion, cologne, or vape juice smells.”

Here is the unvarnished truth.

Electronic vaping devices have been in existence for more than 15 years. Recently, vaping rates among teens have increased dramatically, approaching 60 percent in some areas of the United States. E-cigarettes are now the most frequently used tobacco product among adolescents; more than four million middle and high school students reported using e-cigarettes in 2022.

Vaping nicotine is a gateway to vaping marijuana.

Addressing the issue of vaping marijuana and nicotine among adolescents requires a multifaceted approach. One of the key strategies is education and awareness. Schools, parents, and community organizations can play a crucial role in educating adolescents about the risks associated with vaping, including addiction, exposure to harmful chemicals, and potential health problems. This education should also expose common misconceptions, such as the belief that vaping is a safe and “legal” habit.

In addition to education, prevention programs can be implemented in schools and communities to discourage adolescents from starting to vape. These programs can provide adolescents with the skills and resources needed to resist peer pressure and make informed decisions about their health. Similar to “stop smoking” campaigns, “stop vaping” campaigns can also be designed to protect future generations from harmful substances that adolescents use in vape devices.

Addressing the epidemic of vaping among adolescents also requires the development of healthy skills and habits by the adolescents themselves. One such skill is critical thinking. Adolescents should be encouraged to critically evaluate the information they receive about vaping, especially from sources that may downplay its risks, such as certain advertisements or peer conversations. Understanding the marketing tactics used by vaping companies and the actual health risks associated with vaping can help adolescents make informed decisions.

Finally, health care providers can play a crucial role in screening for vaping use during medical visits and providing resources and support for adolescents who want to quit.

We’ve all been laboring under the delusion that vaping is somehow safer than smoking cigarettes. Our ignorance on the subject exposes our children to the greatest dangers involved with vaping. We owe it to ourselves and our children to get educated. It is my view, after fighting against these devices for the past six years, that we all — Jewish educators and parents — need to take a much more aggressive stance against this growing problem.


Dr. Eric Bornstein is a biochemist, dentist, photobiologist, and renowned medical lecturer who has delivered lectures about vaping and marijuana to over 170,000 health care professionals.


(Originally featured in Mishpacha, Issue 1016)

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