Vaping 101 – What parents need to know
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….
Due to the misconception that vaping is safe and the fun, fruity flavors and clever packaging, kids and teens are vaping at a higher rate than cigarettes.
Talking about vaping should begin in elementary school because students begin self-reporting vaping and exposure to vaping during middle school years.
Vaping flavors create more lung irritation and compromise a body’s immunity. 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 adversely affect the brain and vital organs. Irritation of the lungs and other organs is especially prevalent in the popular mint and cinnamon flavors.
The belief vaping is not as dangerous as cigarettes
Most kids thing vaping is safer than cigarettes. In fact some don’t even realize it contains nicotine, they think they are just vaping flavored water. But the truth is almost all e-cigarettes sold contain nicotine.
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 the 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 it is hard to get
Kids can easily buy vaping products off of the internet and they will be delivered to their house with a text message notification that it is coming and no markings on the packaging to indicate what is inside, making it easy to hide from parents.
Additionally, products like Puff Bars can cost as little as $4 which gives you the same number of puffs as 20 cigarettes. Also, adolescents 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. Both vaping nicotine and vaping THC have significant negative effects on developing teenage brains.
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
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.
Allow your child space to talk and ask questions
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 your family values and help them learn how to make value decisions
If vaping does not line up with your family values it can be a good way to bring up the topic and discuss why with your child. You can also discuss the pros and cons of vaping so kids can be encouraged to arrive to their own conclusions based on the facts.
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.