Teens have been vaping fat clouds and blowing smoke rings with their e-cigarettes ever since Vine’s heyday. But the world of smoke tricks changed forever when a video of an anonymous vaper was posted on Reddit on May 26. The teen in the video takes a hit of her hot pink vape and proceeds to exhale the presumably fruit-scented cloud from her right ear, not unlike a furious cartoon character.
“Smoke out of the ears. Would not recommend,” Dr. Jennifer Villwock, a University of Kansas Medical Center assistant professor of otolaryngology, tells Inverse. “On a microscopic level, that smoke is not good for the lining of the ear. We know that children who are exposed to second-hand smoke are more likely to get ear infections and that smokers also have more ear issues and also sinus issues. This is because the smoke damages the lining of the nose, sinuses, and middle ear space.”
Villwock explained that the teen is most likely forcing the smoke through her eustachian tube, which connects the back of the nose — where the two nostrils merge into one big cavity — with the middle ear space. This tiny canal is the thing that opens and closes when you pop your ears in an airplane.
Once it gets to her middle ear, the smoke escapes through a hole in her eardrum, which is likely in the form of a myringotomy tube. Doctors oftentimes implant these tiny devices into younger patients with a history of ear infections. They’re meant to aid the eustachian tube drain bacteria and potentially infectious fluids. But they also appear to let people vape out of their ears.
Villwock suggests you think twice before you try to impress your friends with this party trick. While vaping is still a relatively new phenomenon, preliminary studies suggest it might be addictive, and there have been a few reported cases of teens suffering from severe allergic reactions from the chemicals in e-cigarette liquid.
“[This kind of vaping can] produce more mucus and [decrease the ability] to transport the mucus and overall thickening of [sinus] lining,” she says. “In the small spaces we are talking about, this can lead to a backup of the thicker secretions, inflammation, and infection. It may look cool, but not worth risk of chronic ear and health issues as a result.”
So stick to those smoke rings, kids. The viral fame isn’t worth a trip to the ER.