Whether heard as a serious question or used as a meme, “do you even vape” is a common question among teens. Vaping, the act of smoking an electronic cigarette, is on the rise in teens. The pen that holds the vapor can contain flavored juice, a mix of juice with nicotine, or ingredients containing THC, the major active ingredient in marijuana.

Although e-cigarettess became popular for those trying to stop smoking, health officials claim they are a way for teens to start smoking.

“Vaping is known as a gateway drug,” Viera Pediatrician Aryanna Lee said. “It could easily lead teens into trying marijuana and also cocaine.”

Most e-cigarettes contain juices that are benign and have scents. The actual act of vaping does not have health consequences that have been found yet, and a 2015 expert review from Public Health England estimated e-cigarettes are 95 percent less harmful than the real thing. However, most e-cigarettes contain nicotine, which causes addiction and for teens may harm brain development and could affect memory and attention.

“I vape because I like the flavor,” a senior said. “And most major studies have shown that it has little to no effects on the health of the user. The big question mark currently is on the long-term effect, like after 10 or 20 years, and those don’t really worry me.”

Besides the harm of nicotine that can be in e-cigarettes, some contain the chemical formaldehyde, which can cause cancer. Flavors for “vape juice” often use the chemical diacetyl, which has a buttery taste and used to be added to foods like popcorn until it was linked to factory workers’ deaths and hundreds of cases of bronchiolitis obliterans, a serious and irreversible lung disease. Researchers at Harvard found that 39 of 51 e-cigarette brands contain diacetyl.

“The flavors, such as cotton candy, cherry and bubble gum attract many teens,” Lee said. “Vaping has dangerous effects for teens because they believe that it is safe and do not know the actual harmful effects that it can have on their health.”

For school campuses, e-cigarettes lay in gray territory when it comes to the rules and safety around them and the consequences for students having possession of them.

“We haven’t heard of it being an issue in the schools in Melbourne, and I really haven’t heard any other schools having issues with it in other counties,” School Resource Officer Chuck Landmesser said. “It [possessing an e-cigarette] would face the same consequences as possessing contraband or bringing tobacco product on campus. If that were to happen here, we would see if the student has a disciplinary file, if there is any type of issue, and it would be up to the principal to make the ultimate call on what would occur.”

By Rachel Montgomery