Vaping: What parents need to know
Here’s how to have a conversation with your children about this (potentially dangerous) trend
As the parent, there’s a high chance you’ve heard the term “vaping,” or even come across a vape device itself. But don’t let the fruity odors, the smoke-blowing TikTok videos, and the fact that it’s seemingly very accessible and prevalent fool you. The trendy accessory has the potential to do some serious damage to the lungs of children and young adults, according to recent reports.
Vaping is an e-cigarette that’s odorless and smoke-free, allowing users to breathe in steam from heated oil. One of the most well-known brands is a small, rectangular device that looks like a flash drive. With high levels of nicotine, it can be particularly addictive. The Child Mind Institute noted that these devices can have as much nicotine as a pack of cigarettes.
The National Institutes of Health (NIH) found that 37.3 percent of high school seniors vaped in 2018, which is up from 28 percent in 2017. And based on a 2019 National Youth Tobacco Study (NYTS), Yale Medicine found that more than 5 million students (middle and high school) used e-cigarettes in 2019—up from 3.6 million last year.
What’s more, these numbers are rising fast. That same report said that in 2017, 11 percent of high school seniors were vaping; that’s compared to 25 percent in 2019. And among eighth-grade students, the percentages almost tripled: 3.5 percent to 9 percent.
While vaping might seem like a “safer alternative” to traditional cigarettes, there’s evidence suggesting that vaping use among children and teens can lead to actual smoking in the future. A 2017 study in the journal BMJ found that children who had never smoked cigarettes by their senior year, but who had recently vaped, were more than four times as likely to have smoked cigarettes within the past year of a follow-up survey.
How to Talk with Your Children About Vaping
The Child Mind institute advises that parents be as knowledgeable as possible about vaping before approaching their children and/or teenagers. This article about dangerous vaping myths is a great place to start. The CDC also lists Quick Facts on the Risks of E-cigarettes for Kids, Teens, and Young Adults. Also, the CDC has found that some brands were found to be associated with serious lung illnesses, so it’s important to know what type your child is using.
Next, keep the dialogue open. Do several of the kids at school vape? What flavors are they using, and do they think it’s dangerous? The Child Mind Institute notes that this can be a potential entry point for parents to insert correct information into the conversation. For example, when you vape, you’re inhaling all the same toxic chemicals found in cigarettes, as vape oil contains aerosol and nicotine, which can be harmful even in small doses.
Don’t be surprised if you’re met with resistance. And don’t give up on discussing the topic. The Child Mind Institute also recommends contacting your child’s school to learn their policies on vaping, and what the administration is actively doing to curb the habit among students. Remember, despite some potential pushback, it’s critical to make sure your child knows that you’re not okay with them vaping.
The Partnership to End Addiction also notes that it’s important to understand the reasons why your child is using a vape. Are they bored, curious, or trying to fit in? Simply asking your teen how vaping makes them feel can help to reveal answers to this.
If you’re concerned that your child or teen is becoming addicted, don’t hesitate to seek help. Teen.SmokeFree.gov offers a number of helpful resources for parents, including text message programs designed to help teens wean off vaping addictions.
But if your child is experiencing signs of EVALI (E-cigarette, or vaping, product use Associated Lung Injury), contact your health provider immediately. These symptoms include cough and shortness of breath or chest pains, nausea, vomiting, abdominal pain, and diarrhea, or fever, chills, or weight loss.