Vaping 101

Vaping 101


Vaping 101 – What parents need to know


Parents need to know the dangers and truths about vaping

Ask a child if cigarettes are dangerous and almost all kids will say yes. Ask a child if vaping is dangerous and you might be surprised by their answer….


Kids often believe vaping is more safe than cigarettes. And with the fun, fruity flavors and clever packaging, kids and teens are vaping at a higher rate than cigarettes.


But the truth is, vaping can actually be more dangerous to a child’s health than cigarettes. This is why talking with your child or teenager about vaping should be a conversation you have early and often. It’s a good idea to begin having conversations about the dangers of vaping in the elementary school years because studies show students begin self-reporting vaping and exposure to vaping during the middle school years.


The Dangers of Vaping

Helping adolescents understand the dangers of vaping from an early age will help them make better choices

Health Concerns


Vaping flavors create lung irritation and compromise the body’s immune response. Irritation of the lungs and other organs is especially prevalent in the popular mint and cinnamon flavors.


In addition to nicotine, which is highly addictive and can lead to behavior and learning problems in addition to various health problems, e-cigarettes also contain heavy metals and small particle chemicals which also negatively affect the brain and vital organs. As you can imagine this can be especially impactful during the adolescent years when the brain is going through a lot of changes.


The belief vaping is not as dangerous as cigarettes


Ask and you will find out that most kids think vaping is safer than cigarettes. In fact some kids don’t even realize vapes contains nicotine. They think it’s just vaping flavored water. But the truth is almost all e-cigarettes sold contain nicotine.


And not only does vaping contain nicotine, it greatly increases the amount of nicotine you are exposed to. Smoking a cigarette you inhale about 1.1 to 1.8 mg of nicotine per cigarette, meaning you have to smoke an entire pack (all 20 cigarettes) to inhale about 22-36 mg of nicotine. For e-cigarettes, the amount of nicotine per device can vary, but generally they range from 20 – 60 mg, so the potential nicotine exposure from one device can be the equivalent of 2 ½ packs of cigarettes.


The belief fruity flavors are no longer available


While a ban on all flavors was an original policy proposal, the policy that ultimately passed only banned flavored e-cigarettes in closed e-cigarette cartridges, such as those produced by JUUL. All flavors are still available for refillable or disposable vaping devices, including the very popular Puff Bar.


The belief that vapes are hard to get


The truth is teenagers can easily buy vaping products off of the internet. And those vapes will be delivered to your house with a text message notification to your teen that it is coming. And since most sellers do not include markings on the packaging to indicate what is inside, it makes it easy for your teen to hide the contents from you.


Additionally, products like Puff Bars, which give the same number of puffs as 20 cigarettes, can be purchased for as little as $4 .


And just because you don’t think your teen can or will buy vapes does not mean you are home free. Teenagers often share devices at social events, where it is common for there to be social vaping activities, such as who can make the biggest cloud.


It can be just the beginning


Studies show vaping can be a gateway product, with users sometimes continuing on to cigarette use and THC (cannabis) use.


Vaping THC, also known as dabbing or using a dab pen, is also more likely. Vaping THC is especially dangerous because the concentration of THC is higher than smoking it any other way. And just as nicotine has significant negative effects on the developing teenage brain, so does vaping THC.


Kids often view cigarettes as bad but vaping as harmless. It's time to bust that myth.

The warning signs

How can you tell if your child is vaping?


Vaping is a lot harder to spot because it does not smell like cigarettes and the devices are cleverly made to resemble things like highlighters, flash drives, pens, etc.

Here are a few warning signs to be on the look out for:

  • Behavior changes
  • Weight loss
  • Sweet fragrances on clothing or backpack
  • Change in grades
  • Secretive behavior

What you can do


Start having conversations early and often

Open communication about vaping and its dangers is key to helping your teenager.

If you watch a movie together, read an article or see someone on the street vaping or smoking use it as a way to start a conversation. Kids are more receptive to a conversation where they haven’t sparked the reason for the conversation. You can start with this short 6 minute video provided by Allina Health and their Change to Chill initiative if you need a jumping off point.


Allow your child space to talk and ask questions


Some kids really do not know that vaping is dangerous. They need to be educated and given information. Be honest about the statistics and your fears, letting them know you care about them. Most kids readily accept that cigarettes are bad so give them the facts to learn vaping is just as bad.


Talk to your child about why you don’t want them to smoke or vape


If you don’t want your child to vape it is important to bring up the topic and discuss why with your child. Remember this needs to be more than you simply saying ‘don’t do that’. You need to explain to your child the why. This helps them understand there is a reason behind your rules. And when it is safety based, they can be more likely to accept your stance.


Talk about ways your child can say no to pressure

Give your child an out

Agree on a single letter your child can text you when they are in a situation they do not want to be in. When you as the parent get a text with that letter the deal is you will give your child a call right away. Then they can use the call as an excuse to exit the situation they are in.

Teach your child so they know what to say

  • No, vaping is just as bad as cigarettes
  • I’m not into that
  • If I got busted, my parents would kill me.
  • If my coach found out, I’d get kicked off the team
  • I don’t want to get into trouble with police/school, etc.
  • I’m allergic – the great thing about this one is due to our current culture where we are all allergen aware, most kids will accept this blindly without questioning a child if it is true or not.

Teach your child how to use humor to defuse an uncomfortable situation

  • No thanks, I prefer to eat my gummy bears instead of vaping them!
  • Nah, I don’t like how Altoids taste!

Making a joke can help take the focus off them and provide for a natural transition.

It is important to not judge or punish your child for reaching out for help or informing you they are in a tough situation. Keep the trust and build a relationship where your child knows they can come to you when they are in trouble. Over time they will get better at not getting into those situations in the first place if they have your unconditional support.

If you are worried your child is vaping or has become addicted, check out the below resources on how to help your child quit.

3 Ways to Improve Your Teenager’s Mental Health

3 Ways to Improve Your Teenager’s Mental Health

3 Ways to Improve your Teenager’s Mental Health

Parents can help their teenagers mental health thru modeling self care and talking about feelings.

Teenage brains are wired to seek new experiences, master skills, and create relationships. Developmentally, this is what is needed for teenagers to grow into adulthood.

Unfortunately, the pandemic has interfered with all of these things. This can impact a teenager’s mental health, which may lead them to feel anxious or depressed.

Some teenagers are experiencing these struggles for the first time. While others are experiencing them at a more severe or frequent occurrence.

How do you know when to worry as a parent?

When your teenager’s daily life is affected by their emotions, its time to start paying attention. Everyone experiences big emotions sometimes. And it is normal to pull back from life for a short period of time while you process your feelings.

But when your teen is withdrawing for more than a couple of days it is a red flag. It is also a red flag if they are no longer able to function in their daily life the way they used to. These red flags let you know it is time to intervene with help.

What does no longer being able to function look like?

Think of functioning as the everyday things we do to navigate life. Like sleeping, eating, taking care of our body, attending school (on-line or in person). If your teenager has stopped doing these things it’s time to check in with them to see what’s up.

Let’s talk about sleep

Sleep affects a teenager’s ability to learn, make good decisions and develop emotionally. Too little sleep will negatively impact their mental health and functioning. When a teen is struggling with their mental health, sleep is one of the first places to look.

Having said that, it is normal for teenagers to change their sleep habits during the teen years.

Most will turn into night owls, due to changes affecting their circadian rhythm. These changes are due to development, which produce a slower building sleep drive. These changes also cause their bodies to delay making melatonin (the body’s natural sleeping aid).

So naturally, teenagers stay up later and want to sleep in later.

It is also normal for teenagers to catch up on their sleep during the weekend. This is usually due to them sleeping too little during the week and their body trying to capture the lost hours.

If your teen is struggling with their mental health, help them keep track of how much sleep they are getting. If your teen is not getting 8-10 hours of sleep per night, work with them to make their sleep health a priority.

If your teenager is sleeping too much, where they are missing out on life, it is usually a sign they are out of balance. Helping your teenager re-engage in life and finding professional help can help.

More red flags

  • Your teenager has a theme of anxious or depressive thoughts in all they do.
  • Your teenager believes their feelings are permanent (i.e. this is never going to end).
  • Your teenager indicates they are powerless in how they feel or in creating change for how they feel.

If your child mentions self-harm or taking their life, always treat it seriously. Try talking with them to let them know you are there for connection and help. If they don’t want to talk with you, see our Teen Resources for numbers and resources so they can talk with someone else.

What can you do as a parent to help?

Let’s face it, sometimes it is hard to get your teenager to buy into getting help. Sometimes it is hard to find help because everyone is struggling right now. But there are ways you can help at home.

1. Practice your own self-care.

Your teens are watching everything you do, even if they pretend to ignore you. If you model getting up, showered and dressed everyday it does plant seeds in your teenager’s mind.

Invite your teenager to join you in your self-care. Ask them to go for a walk with you, take deep breaths with you or do mindfulness with you.

Your teenager may deny your request depending on how stuck they are, but don’t give up. Keep asking them and if you can, do your self-care around them so they can always join in.

Gratitude is an easy way to invite your teen to start practicing self-care. At a meal ask everyone to say what they are grateful for. Even if they say they are grateful for going back to their room after dinner, it is a start.

Consistency is key so keep trying even if it does not seem to be working. At the very least you will feel better, which will help you when interacting with your teenager.

2. Teach your teenager self-compassion

This may be a hard one for your teenager at first, but again modeling it can have a huge impact. Ask them to talk to themselves as though they were their best friend.

Take it in little steps. In the beginning. act as their regulator. When you hear them say something harsh to themselves, go over and give them a hug if they will let you. Then say ‘I’m sorry that was so harsh, that must have been hard to hear’. Even if they don’t want the hug, say the words so they can hear your compassion.

Next, encourage them to refrain from saying the negative talk to themselves. Ask them if they would say that to their friend and remind them to treat themselves the same.

And finally, teach them to practice compassion with themselves. Teach them to say, ‘this is hard, it’s okay to feel bad because it is so hard, everyone is having a hard time with this right now’.

Kristin Neff, a leader in self-compassion research, has many short compassion exercises on her website. Share them with your teenager so they can do them when they want. Or better yet, do them together!

3. Validate your Teenagers Feelings

Anxiety and depression can feel very isolating, like no one else understands or feels like we do. But a parent has the power to break through these feelings by listening and reflecting.

Give your teenager lots of chances and lots of time to talk. Teenagers don’t always want a face to face so a car ride, walk or dark room can provide the safe space for them to open up.

Next, let them say anything. This means they should be doing 90% of the talking. Your job is to sit there and listen. Every once in a while repeat back what you heard. For example, ‘it feels like this is never going to end’ or ‘it feels like there is no point in getting up’.

Don’t judge what they say, try to make things better, or problem solve.

Just listen and repeat.

If you feel like you are getting upset listening to them, ask them to take a break. Model what to do when you start to get upset. Say you want to hear more, but you are feeling upset and you don’t want to say the wrong thing. Then say you need to take a break and you will come back to finish the talk in 10 minutes.

Make sure you let your teenager know you are coming back and commit to it by scheduling a time. This will keep you accountable and will build their trust in you.

If you can, invite them to take a walk with you or do a short activity with you during the break. That way you are keeping the connection and modeling how to cope. As an added bonus, you are getting both of you to focus on something other than their anxiety or depression.

Final thoughts

Navigating the teenage years can be difficult even without added mental health challenges. But your teenager does not need to suffer, and you can help. Sometimes these strategies are enough and sometimes your child will need more help. Don’t be afraid to reach out for help for your child or yourself.