How to Talk to Your Child About Vaping
E-cigarettes, or vapes as they often called, have been available in the marketplace for some time, their use has dramatically increased in the past decade. Unfortunately, this rise in usage has been documented among teens and young adults. In 2017, 11% of high school children reported using an electronic cigarette in the past 30 days; that number rose to 21% in 2018, and by 2019 27.5% of high school students admitted to using the vape product in the past month . But it is not just high school kids experimenting with this vape product; the rate of use among middle schoolers rose from only 0.6% in 2011 to 10.5% in 2019. With sharp increases like this, it is safe to say vaping is becoming a massive concern for parents, educators, and health professionals.
What’s more, is it can be extremely difficult to find out whether or not your child is using e-cigarettes. The devices are often small, simple to conceal, and easily confused with other gadgets such as USB drives. Plus, the vape “smoke” doesn’t leave any lingering smells in your home or on your child’s clothing, so you won’t be able to catch a whiff of their use. But, with an outbreak of vaping-related illness sweeping the nation , it is more important than ever to help your children understand the facts and dangers associated with this new fad. Keep reading to find out how to talk to your kid about drugs and acknowledge that this is not a harmless activity.
What is Vaping?: Juuling Facts
Approaching your child about the risks of vaping is difficult to do if you don’t even know how a vape works or what it is. Your child may use your inexperience as a reason to assume you don’t know what you are talking about and discredit everything you have to say. First, it is important to know all the names of this activity, including vaping or Juuling, vape pens or vapes, mods, and e-cigs or e-cigarettes. As a result of these many names, it can be difficult for parents to keep up with what their kids are discussing and doing. For example, while the Juuling definition is the same as vaping, it is even more specific as Juul is a brand name of vaping device.
These devices are primarily constructed from four components: a tank to hold vaping liquid (sometimes called e-juice or vape sauce), an atomizer which acts as the heating unit, a battery, and a mouthpiece. When the user begins to inhale or pull on the devices, a sensor detects this and triggers the battery to supply electricity to the atomizer. This heats the vaping liquid creating a vapor that can be inhaled.
Three Ways You Can Talk to Your Child
In reality, the conversation you need to have with your child about a nicotine addiction is very similar to the one you would have about any other type of drug. Armed with vaping facts and an understanding of how this new way of smoking works, you will be able to have an open and honest dialogue with your child. Here are some of our top tips to make the most of the exchange.
- Explain the Health Risks Unfortunately, many children who decide to try e-cigarettes are not informed or aware of the health risks associated with consistent use of the devices. In fact, many kids are under the impression that vaping is a safe alternative to traditional smoking. Perhaps the most significant health risk associated with a nicotine addiction is the fact that health professionals are unclear about the long-term risks and effects these vaping devices will have on a young person’s health and brain development. Make sure you discuss this with your child and help them to understand what that could mean for them as they grow older.
- Highlight the Ties to Tobacco Past initiatives have created a belief among many young people that smoking is unacceptable. In 2018 only 13.7% of US adults reported smoking, down from 20.9% in 2005, and that rate is even lower among young adults aged 18-24 at 7.8% . This trend is correlated to beliefs among younger generations as we see the rate of traditional smoking among school-aged children continuing to drop. However, many kids do not associate vaping with conventional smoking. According to the Truth Initiative, a public health non-profit committed to ending tobacco use in America, nearly two-thirds of children didn’t even realize Juul pods contained nicotine and started vaping because of the fun flavors of the liquids (think: creme brulee and cotton candy). Highlighting these ties to the tobacco industry may help dissuade your children from using vapes.
- Teach, Don’t Lecture
Though it will be tempting to come down on your children hard about vaping, especially if you find out your kid has been using a vaping device, it is essential to stay calm and allow your child to speak. Rather than asking, “how could you do something like this?” open a dialogue by inviting your child to ask you questions and use this as a chance to learn more about their experience. Ask them about how they were first introduced to vaping, what types of pressure they feel to participate, and how they feel about their usage as well as how others around them are using it. Understanding the experience of your child will allow you to help them better. For example, if they don’t want to participate but feel pressure to do so, you could help them practice saying no and figure out how to remove themselves from uncomfortable situations. Plus, approaching the conversation in this way will help your kids to see you as an ally they can turn to for help in the future, rather than an adversary to hide things from.
Talking to your children about drugs, and vaping in particular, can be a challenging task. However, armed with vaping facts and these tips will help you manage the discussion and create an open dialogue that will foster honesty with your children.
Susan J. Wood, Director of Mental Health
Susan J. Wood, LMFT is the Director of Mental Health at Children’s Bureau and has over 20 years of experience working with children in a community mental health setting. She joined Children’s Bureau in 2015 as a Program Manager in the Antelope Valley and became the program director in June 2018 where she was instrumental in opening and expanding mental health services to the Santa Clarita Valley and Long Beach.