The latest method for smoking e-cigarettes may expose users to higher levels of dangerous chemicals.
E-cigarette dripping
Credit: Tibanna79/Shutterstock

As if the idea of your kid vaping wasn't already troubling enough, a new study has just revealed that one in four teens who vape say they've also used their e-cigarettes for something called "dripping."

So what's dripping? While normal e-cigarette use involves slowly releasing the e-cig liquid from a wick onto a hot atomizer, dripping is an alternative method in which vapers drop the liquid directly onto the hot coils of the vaping device in order to produce a thicker, more flavorful smoke—and it's potentially dangerous, since it may expose users to higher levels of nicotine and carcinogens like formaldehyde and acetaldehyde.

The study was conducted by Suchitra Krishnan-Sarin, a professor in the department of psychiatry at the Yale University School of Medicine, and revealed that of the 1,080 students who reported having tried an e-cigarette, more than 26 percent of them also reported dripping. Sixty-four percent of the surveyed teens said they dripped for the thicker smoke, 39 percent for the better flavor, 28 percent for the stronger sensation in the throat (known as "throat hit"), and 22 percent simply tried it out of curiosity.

The research suggests that the students who were more likely to report using e-cigs for dripping were male, white, and students who had also tried other tobacco products.

"These results suggest that youth who use dripping may be those who are more familiar with and have experience with using multiple tobacco products, including e-cigarettes," Krishnan-Sarin explained.

Makes sense. Though since the researchers only examined whether the students had tried dripping, not whether it was something they did on a regular basis, Krishnan-Sarin noted that more research is needed before dripping can be confirmed as an actual trend.

"Given that 1 in 4 high school e-cigarette users report dripping, future safety studies of e-cigarettes should focus on the toxicities of hot vapors produced by exposure of e-liquids to high temperatures," she explained. "There is also a critical need for regulatory efforts that consider restrictions on the e-cigarette device so it cannot be easily manipulated for behaviors such as dripping."

In the meantime, since the risks of short-term and long-term use of e-cigarettes are unknown, parents should encourage their teens not to use e-cigarettes, and to especially avoid alternative—and potentially more harmful—methods like dripping.

Hollee Actman Becker is a freelance writer, blogger, and mom of two who writes about parenting and pop culture. Check out her website for more, and then follow her on Instagram and Twitter.