New study: Vape tricks are for kids

In an online study, most teens who use e-cigarettes have tried or watched “vape tricks,” which are potentially risky for teen health

Research Triangle Park, N.C.— What do Ghost Hits, Jellyfish, and Cheerios have in common? They are all “vape tricks,” and according to a first-of-it-kind study conducted by RTI International, many teenagers are trying them. 

The authors of “Tricks Are for Kids: Risk Factors for Youth E-cigarette ‘Vape Tricks’ Behavior,” published in the Journal of Adolescent Health, found that the majority of teenagers in an online survey who use electronic vaping products, like e-cigarettes, hookah pens, and advanced personal vaporizers, have tried doing or watched others do vape tricks.

“Vape tricks, which involve making shapes with exhaled vapor or trying to blow the largest cloud of vapor, typically require using advanced vaping devices with larger batteries that heat the e-liquid inside to a higher temperature,” said Jessica Pepper, PhD, lead author and social scientist at RTI. “These advanced devices produce more harmful emissions than basic devices. We are concerned that doing vape tricks could increase teenagers’ exposure to chemicals that have been linked to lung disease and other health problems.”

The study also identified characteristics associated with teenagers who are most likely to perform vape tricks, such as:

  • Viewing and sharing information about vaping on social media
  • Believing that vaping is common among peers
  • Believing that vaping products are safe
  • Vaping daily
  • Using advanced vaping products

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, 11 percent of American high school students in 2016 reported using e-cigarettes in the past month. In RTI’s online study, 4 in 5 current e-cigarette users had tried doing vape tricks, even though only one-third vaped every day.

“Interest in vape tricks may encourage non-users to start vaping or current users to increase the frequency of their vaping or switch to more advanced devices,” said Pepper. “More research is needed to inform policies and campaigns aimed at prevention. Understanding why teens are attracted to vape tricks could be helpful for designing future interventions.” 

Learn more about RTI’s e-cigarette work, visit our emerging issues page