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A new study by researchers at State University of New York (SUNY) – Stony Brook University found that while teens 12-21 years old accurately reported their use of e-cigarettes, marijuana, and tobacco — approximately 40% were unaware of the level of nicotine they were using.

The Centers for Disease Control reported that among high school students, 1 in 5 say they’ve used an e-cigarette at least once over the past month. Between 2017 and 2018, teen vaping rates soared by 78%, prompting the Food and Drug Administration (FDA), the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) and the U.S. Surgeon General to call teen vaping an “epidemic”.

The study, led by Dr. Rachel Boykan the Department of Pediatrics at the Renaissance School of Medicine and Dr. Maciej Goniewicz at Roswell Park Comprehensive Cancer Center, was published in the May edition of the medical journal, Pediatrics.

The researchers first asked teens about their vaping, tobacco, and marijuana use, which was later confirmed with a urine test. 98% of the study participants truthfully reported their usage. The research team also tested for cotinine levels, which indicate nicotine in a person’s body — finding that 40% of teens who believed they were using a nicotine-free vape juice actually showed nicotine in their urine test. The vaping teenage brain responds to chemicals such as nicotine differently than the adult brain, and further research is needed as vaping becomes more popular among youth.

The CDC is currently compiling research on the vaping teenage brain, as lawmakers and the FDA attempt to limit access for underage e-cigarette users. The danger for teens being exposed to nicotine, especially without their knowledge, is that nicotine is highly-addictive, and can harm adolescent brain development, which occurs through the early to mid-twenties – particularly areas that control learning, mood, attention, and impulse control. According to the CDC, “using nicotine in adolescence may also increase risk for future addiction to other drugs.”

Teens who are already addicted to nicotine may need help to stop. Quitting resources are available for free at

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