We see it everywhere, kids vaping. Some do it for the thrill of rebelling against authority, while others are influenced by peers. Compact vaporizers, which look like flash drives, give teenagers the ability to easily hide their e-cigarettes and take quick hits at home, in school, or even in the classroom. Another new, concerning trend is that many youth are also vaping marijuana in devices that look similar to nicotine vapes. These oil marijuana cartridges do not smell like marijuana so it is much easier to hide from parents or teachers.
Teenagers, by nature, regularly find ways to push limits set by adults, and vaping serves as a convenient mechanism to achieve this. As a parent, it is in your children’s best interest to talk to them about the risks of vaping, and knowing the facts will go a long way in communicating your concerns to your teen.
Is vaping safer than traditional cigarettes? Many teens will argue that vaping is a safe alternative to smoking cigarettes. The fact is, e-cigarettes deliver high levels of toxins which have been linked to asthma, heart disease, and stroke. The most comprehensive research and analysis to date on e-cigarettes indicates that there are health risks associated with vaping. The congressionally mandated “Public Health Consequences of e-Cigarettes” highlights evidence that non-smoking teens who vape are, at the very least, more likely to start smoking.
Starting the conversation. Find applicable situations where you can talk about vaping. Facilitating a natural, free-flowing conversation will make your teen feel more comfortable. Rather than directly announcing “we need to talk,” you should ask your teen what he or she thinks about a vaping related situation you share together. Examples of this include seeing an e-cigarette advertisement or commercial or seeing a person vape in public.
Answering their questions. Here are common questions and comments your teen may have and some idea as to how to answer them accurately.
Why don’t you want me to use e-cigarettes? It’s not like I smoke regular cigarettes.
“Since you’re young, your brain is still developing and means you are more vulnerable to addiction. Most e-cigarettes contain nicotine which can alter your brain’s chemistry which can make you crave more nicotine and possibly other substances. Also, research indicates that young people are more likely to smoke traditional tobacco products if they vape.”
“E-cigarettes contain a lot of harmful chemicals. Just because they do not contain the same amount of nicotine as a traditional cigarette, it does not make them safer.”
“At your age, nicotine can make it harder for you to concentrate and control your impulses.”
I thought e-cigarettes only contained water and flavoring?
“Most e-cigarettes have nicotine. The e-cigarettes that don’t have nicotine contain chemicals that are harmful to your body.”
You use(d) tobacco. Why can’t I in my own way?
“If I could go back, I never would have tried any form of tobacco. People who smoke or use other forms of tobacco are more likely to die from deadly diseases. I quit (or am trying to quit) because I want to be around as long as possible for you and for me.”
Keep the conversation going. As your child grows, you will most likely find the level of conversation will change and reflect their growing maturity and intellectual abilities. Use this as an opportunity to have more conversations with your teen as he or she grows. This conversation can also serve as a bridge to other topics including alcohol, drugs, and other high-risk behaviors.
Heidi J. Weinroth, MD, is a Pediatrician with Children’s Regional Hospital at Cooper. As the only state-designated acute care children’s hospital in South Jersey, Cooper provides exceptional pediatric primary care and comprehensive specialty care services for every patient, every day, in a patient- and family-centered environment. To learn more, click here.