How Parents Can Deal With the Vaping Epidemic

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Vaping is the new smoking for millions of users around the world. Unfortunately, many of these users are teens. Over 3.6 million minors under the age of 18 use e-cigarette and vape devices as of 2018, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Most vaping users do not fully understand the health and safety risks behind this habit. Misinformation and deceptive marketing tactics by vaping companies have led to what the Surgeon General is calling an epidemic of use among youth.

Signs That Your Child Is Vaping

According to News in Health research, a survey of 44,000 high school students in 2018 found that 37% of 12th graders reported e-cigarette and vaping use. This is up from 28% the previous year. It can be difficult to spot the signs of vaping as a parent. Vaporized aerosols are often odorless and invisible. If they have flavors, vapes can smell pleasant, unlike the telltale scent of tobacco smoke. Parents may not recognize what they are seeing or smelling. Products such as JUUL devices are especially discreet. They resemble USB drives and are easily disguisable. Stay alert for possible signs that your child is vaping.

  • Devices that look like USB drives, pens or markers
  • Discarded flavor pods in trashcans
  • Clothes that smell sweet, fruity or minty
  • Cutting back on coffee or caffeine
  • Unexplained weight loss
  • Frequent nosebleeds
  • Reduced lung capacity or respiratory function
  • Cold-like symptoms such as coughing or fever

Do not assume your child is not the type to take up vaping or e-cigarette use. Peer pressure and a misunderstanding of e-cigarette risks have led to vaping infiltrating almost every high school in the country. Vaping product manufacturers have also heavily influenced teen users. At least 7 in 10 teens have seen vaping advertisements as far back as middle school. Many teens do not understand the risks of vaping. Even teens with good judgment may take up vaping without recognizing the potential health ramifications.

How to Talk to Your Teen About the Dangers of Vaping

The rate of e-cigarette use among teens increases as they get older. Teens who are seniors in high school are more likely than younger students to use e-cigarette devices. It is also about twice as common among males as it is with females. If you notice any potential signs that your child is using an e-cigarette or vaping device, respond carefully. Avoid jumping to criticisms and punishments. Instead, listen and be patient with your child. Educating your teen and putting an end to vape use will take a careful strategy.

Start by explaining to your child what makes vaping so dangerous. Manufacturers do not have to list the ingredients of their vaping cartridges. As a result, a startling 66% of students surveyed believe their cartridges only contain flavoring, when in reality 99% of e-cigarette liquids contain nicotine. Your child might think vaping is harmless when in reality he or she is inhaling the equivalent amount of nicotine in one JUUL cartridge as an entire pack of cigarettes.

Explain the dangers of nicotine dependence and addiction. In many cases, educating a teen on the short- and long-term dangers of vaping can be enough to discourage future use. Pose your conversation as a concerned parent appealing to your child’s better judgment, not an attack or criticism. Be mindful of how you react to information such as your child or his or her friends vaping. Remind your teen that he or she is an independent thinker with principles, who does not have to give in to peer pressure.

Let your child know he or she can always come to you with questions or concerns about smoking or vaping. Keep the conversation going in the future rather than only having the talk once. Vaping should be an ongoing conversation in your household to expose this habit and ideally end it early. If you need help talking to your teen about vaping, visit the American Lung Association’s helpline website for more tips.