The 'Dripping' Phenomenon: Teens Are Experimenting With Possible Harmful Use of E-Cigarettes

By Victoria Kim 02/08/17

About one in four teens have tried "dripping," according to a new study.

Man holding e-cigarettes

Researchers at Yale University say a new phenomenon called “dripping” is gaining popularity among teen e-cigarette users—where instead of using the mouthpiece, e-liquid is “dripped” right on to the heated coil inside the device and inhaled.

After surveying 1,080 e-cigarette users at eight high schools in Connecticut, the study found that 26.1%—about one in four—had tried dripping. 

“What we are discovering with our work with youth is that kids are actually using these electronic products for other behaviors, not just for vaping e-liquids from cartridges or tanks,” said Suchitra Krishnan-Sarin, a psychiatry professor at Yale and a study author.

The high schoolers reported liking dripping because it tastes better, produces thicker vapor clouds, and feels stronger—but the Yale scientists say we shouldn’t rule out any potential health risks associated with increased exposure to certain toxins and nicotine.

About a quarter of those who tried dripping said they were just curious about it. The study, published Feb. 6 in the journal Pediatrics, didn’t report on how often they did it.

The study authors recommended further study on the impact of breathing in hot vapors produced by dripping.

The debate over whether e-cigs are really that much safer than cigarettes, or whether they really help people quit smoking, has yielded mixed results at best. Past studies have raised concerns about exposure to chemicals such as formaldehyde, acetaldehyde, and heavy metals like lead and nickel.

But according to a new study published in the Annals of Internal Medicine that examined 181 individuals, far fewer toxins and carcinogens were detected in the bodies of smokers who had quit and switched to e-cigarettes, compared to smokers who didn’t quit.

“Our study adds to existing evidence showing that e-cigarettes and [nicotine replacement therapies] are far safer than smoking, and suggests that there is a very low risk associated with their long-term use,” said lead author of the study, Dr. Lion Shahab.

Last December, U.S. Surgeon General Dr. Vivek Murthy said that e-cigarette use among young people “is now a major public health concern," reporting that from 2011 to 2015, e-cigarette use among high schoolers had increased by 900%

During a press conference at the time, Murthy warned, “Adolescent brains are particularly sensitive to nicotine’s effects,” and said it can cause “a constellation of nicotine-induced neural and behavioral alterations.”

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Victoria is interested in anything that has to do with how mind-altering substances impact society. Find Victoria on LinkedIn or Tumblr