A Parent’s Guide to Understanding Child and Teen Vaping

A Parent’s Guide to Understanding Child and Teen Vaping


A Parent’s Guide to Understanding Child and Teen Vaping


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 safer than cigarettes. And with the fun, fruity flavors and clever packaging, child and teen vaping is now more common 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 that low price point makes it much more accessible.


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.

Vaping 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 to help keep your child safe


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 peer pressure


Let’s face it, even if you and your child do all the right things your child may still end up in a situation where they are offered vapes, cigarettes or marijuana. So although prevention is important, it is just as important to talk about what your teenager can do when faced with peer 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 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 what they can say


Your child or teenager may feel awkward about not knowing what they can say when a friend or peer invites them to smoke. So practice with them because then it becomes more familiar so that when they get into the situation, they know what to do. Here are some phrasing you can share with your child:

  • 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.

Humor can also be a good way to defuse an uncomfortable situation


If you have a kid that thinks their friends won’t stop with the above phrases, or if your child tends to like to use humor with others, here are other phrases you can teach them.


  • No thanks, I prefer to eat 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.


Final Thoughts on Vaping

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.



Smoke Free – build a quit plan, deal with triggers and troubleshoot withdrawal struggles

Truth Initiative – an anonymous text messaging program to support quitting

Tips for Parents – Simple tips for how parents can help support their teens in quitting