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Parenting

The Vaping Teen

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You’ve probably heard of vaping. Once touted as a safer alternative to smoking, electronic cigarettes are battery-powered devices that allow users to inhale a vapor containing flavor, nicotine, chemicals, or a combination of these. The jury is still out on whether vaping is safer than traditional smoking. Vaping is so new, there aren’t any long-term studies on its effects. However, medical professionals are concerned about reports of lung damage, continued nicotine addiction, and even death associated with vaping use.

What we know is that vaping is becoming popular among today’s teens. According to the Centers for Disease Control, almost 20% of high school students and nearly 5% of middle school students say they had or are using e-cigarettes. Because e-cigarettes do not leave behind the telltale cigarette odor, parents may not realize their children are partaking. Instead, they may find vape pens, which look like markers or USB flash drives, or they may notice a sweet smell in their teens’ bedrooms or vehicles.

How can you talk to your teen about vaping? If life were like a TV show, parents would have a timely talk with their teens, and the newly enlightened teens would acknowledge the risks and walk away wiser and healthier. Sadly, life does not always imitate TV, and many teens bristle at their parents’ attempts to talk about vaping risks.

Instead, ask open-ended questions, such as “How do you feel about vaping?” and “Do any of your friends vape, and what do you think about that?” Be open without being judgmental. While your first instinct might be to throw away the vape pens and restrict your teen’s friend time, such reactions often backfire.

Consider these conversation starters.

What’s the appeal of vaping?

Some teens start vaping because their friends are doing it. Others find that their brains become addicted to the nicotine, and they begin to crave vaping the way a smoker craves a cigarette. By examining their motivations, parents can help teens begin to change their habits.

Do you think vaping is dangerous?

Most teens tend to underestimate the danger associated with various activities they enjoy, and vaping is no exception. They may believe vaping is a safe alternative to smoking. But one vaping pod can contain as much nicotine as a pack of cigarettes. There have been reports of people suffering vaping-related seizures, lung damage, or even dying from vaping.

Have you thought about quitting?

As a parent, you have the right to make your expectations clear on the subject. If you take a no-tolerance approach to vaping, be prepared to follow through with the consequences. Talk about healthy alternatives for dealing with stress or handling peer pressure. If your teen has a good relationship with your family physician, consider asking him or her to have a confidential talk about the danger associated with vaping. A vaping conversation should not be a single experience. Continue to talk about vaping and share resources as you come across them. You are not alone. Reach out to Hancock Health for resources and referrals to experts who can help you help your teen make good decisions about nicotine.