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Teen Vaping: What Should Parents Do?

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As of 2018, over 3 million high schoolers engage in underage smoking, despite many programs directed towards youth to end the dangerous habit. Along with a large percentage of younger smokers, there is also an increasing percentage of kids vaping. Studies have shown that children exposed to any nicotine whatsoever can negatively interfere with their developing brains. So regardless of whether this nicotine is coming from an e-cigarette or a real one, it is not guaranteed to be safe.

Recognizing this, the FDA vaping regulations discourage youth vaping, and have set up laws preventing children from being able to purchase vaping supplies, leading parents to ask, “can kids vape then?” The exact age for purchasing vaping devices varies from state to state, however, 18 is a legal purchasing age in most states (in 42 out of 50).

So why do teens vape?

Sometimes, curious teens just pick up the habit. However, more often than not, the decision to start engaging in this habit is a result of peer pressure, or witnessing role models do it.

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The Rise of Teen Vaping in High Schoolers

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Vaping is relatively new, and there is no long-term data available indicating the harmfulness of vaping. As mentioned previously, vaping does not come with that distinct smell of tobacco, and it evaporates way faster than smoke.

Vaping devices can also be concealable and difficult to distinguish from a normal writing pen, depending on the model that the teenager uses. This means that it could be difficult for a parent of the teacher to catch a teenager smoking red handed.

Vaping around infants is never a good idea. Vapor contains nicotine and Propylene Glycol, which in all possibility can cause irritation of the throat, which can have the same harmful effects in babies.

A great risk these days is that some vaporizers are designed to smoke illegal substances. Again, because the devices can be concealed easily, and do not necessarily produce huge clouds of vapor, it is more difficult to spot when your teenager is using his or her vaporizer to smoke marijuana.

Vaping and Parenting: The Good News

Two interesting pieces of information to note.

Firstly, between 2013 and 2014, the statistics of high school students who have smoked tobacco cigarettes, have dropped from 12.7% to 9.2%. The reason being that high school kids have decided to make a switch from tobacco to vaping, or that ‘’new smokers’’ have started vaping instead of smoking in the first place.

Secondly, a study which has been sponsored by the United Kingdom has claimed that vaping devices are much safer than traditional tobacco cigarettes.

So, if to put together the two above pieces of research, it debunks the claim that vaping is a gateway for teenagers to the world of tobacco.


Signs of Vaping in Children

It is likely that if youth pick up vaping as either a past time or an attempt to quit smoking, they will hide it from guardians and adult caretakers. They may be afraid of what may happen if an adult finds out, so they will try and avoid trouble at all costs. Vaping can be a harder to recognize than smoking in youth since it has less of an odor than smoking marijuana or cigarettes have.

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There are some telltale vape signs that a child has picked up the habit:

Scent: There is a scent affiliated with the action.
Concentrates often are flavored like fruit or other strong odors, and a parent or guardian may notice that the smell does not match a perfume or cologne that the vaping kid owns.

Clouds: Many vaporizer devices create a white cloud.
If a parent walks into a room that contains remnants of a milky cloud, it raises reason to be suspicious.

Residue on Surfaces: The aforementioned clouds that vaping produced can settle on surfaces, producing a noticeable layer of film– especially on glass.
Good places to look for this film are on car windows, just in case a child is vaping outside of the home to be inconspicuous.

Excessive Thirst: The concentrates in vaporizers are known to cause dry mouth and increased thirst.
If children are drinking unusual amounts of liquid for an extended period of time when they are healthy, this could be a sign they vape.

A Decline in Health: Side effects include coughing and wheezing, especially in children with existing asthma.
Additionally, vaping can cause nose bleeds due to the drying effect of inhaling vaporized concentrate.

Agitation: Nicotine can cause physical reactions similar to caffeine.
Children abusing nicotine may seem increasingly agitated, energized, and anxious, even when nothing is stimulating in the child’s environment.

Device Accessories: Children hiding the fact that they vape from their parents will likely not leave a vaporizer out on a bedroom desk.
However, they may accidentally leave out the device’s charging accessories and batteries, or discard of concentrate containers and pods in personal wastebaskets. Keep an eye out for these things.

Disappearing Money: Some older children can support a habit of vaping with personal income brought in from a job they have. However, younger or unemployed children depend on family and close friends for the budget to sustain the habit.

If parents notice that money is disappearing from their wallet, a child is asking for excessive amounts of money, or a kid is not using money on what they said they would, this is a red flag. The disappearing money could be spent at the vape shop, or given to older peers in exchange for buying them vaping tools.


What To Do If A Child Vapes

Since this habit is on the rise in today’s youth, the chances of a teen picking up vaping are pretty high. It is even higher if that child is exposed to their peers and guardians vaping. This is why parents should discuss the dangers of vaping with their children early on, and even hide their vaping habits if they fear their children are too impressionable.

With proper preventative education, the likelihood of a child picking up the habit decreases. Still, there is always a chance that they decide to try vaporizers and e-cigarettes anyways. This is why it is important that parents be educated about and equipped to deal with this situation should it arise.

Critical tips for approaching a child who vapes:

  • To stay calm.

Freaking out at children may only make matters worse. It could instil fear in them and prevent from trusting guardians to help them kick the habit.

It could also encourage them to continue vaping solely to spite parents or feel an adrenaline rush from breaking rules. Instead, take a deep breath and come up with a plan to appropriately address the situation without escalating it.

  • The second thing a guardian should do if they suspect that their child is vaping (or if they know for sure) is equip themselves with reliable information.

Getting educated about the facts of the pitfalls of vaping can help them formulate strong arguments as to why their child should quit.

  • Set an example.

Do not want your children vaping, but you yourself are a vaper? Be subtle about it. Vaping and parenting is not a bad idea. Just do it mindfully. This gives out a way more powerful message than preaching to them about the rights and wrongs in life.

  • The next thing a guardian should do is properly time the approach.

If they decide to ambush a child when they come home from school or if they are already in a bad mood, the child may get angry and a fight could occur. Instead, choose a time in which a child is in a good mood and open to accepting criticism or having their actions challenged.

*If a parent does not feel that accusing a child of vaping is a good idea, there are ways to address the issue with the child subtly as well. For example, they can wait until they see someone else vaping in public when they are with their child.

Bringing up a research article is a good way to enlighten the dangers of vaping to a child without accusing them of anything and causing adverse reactions.


Weighing the Pros and Cons

As a parent, you are the only one responsible for keeping your kids from vaping. It is essential for smoking and vaping parents to keep their tools away from their children so as not to encourage the development of a new detrimental habit. A little knowledge and vigilance can go a long way in keeping the kids healthy.

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Published: May 17, 2017 Updated: February 26, 2019


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15 comments on “Teen Vaping: What Should Parents Do?
  • Kristen
    September 11, 2019 at 6:57 pm

    No one seems to realize how much the kids are actually Juuling. One 5% Juul pod (170 – 200 puffs) is equal to a pack of cigarettes.

    Most kids can’t afford to purchase new pods, so they refill old ones with higher percentages of nicotine syrup sold from smoke shops to get a bigger buzz. It’s HORRIFIC. Especially when you realize that kids think it’s a healthy alternative to cigarettes but become more nicotine addicted than a 2 pack a day smoker. Many kids end up intaking the equivalent to several packs a day during school hours.

    They’re getting a high from it that they could never get if they were a regular smoker.

  • Carolyn
    October 4, 2018 at 9:16 am

    More interesting is that the advertising is still up after you pointed it out! Make you wonder if the authors even looked or read the comments.

  • trish
    September 27, 2018 at 9:41 am

    I feel it’s better to just make them quit cold turkey and yes, I have quit cold turkey (I used to smoke cigarettes). If they “wean” themselves off they will never do it…just an excuse. PS vaping (juuling) is just as bad if not worse then smoking cigarettes…just as much of the bad stuff and a lot of bad chemicals.

  • Greg Kelly
    September 25, 2018 at 1:17 am

    Buy them a 0 nicotine vape. Then let them decide if they want nicotine when they are 18. Compromise with your children is healthier than being the person they hate. Put kids in prison-like scenarios and they will get exceptionally good at hiding stuff from you. I am 22 with no children, unqualified to tell anyone how to parent. That said you should be happy they aren’t abusing actual cigarettes and that the trend has died.

    Nicotine dependency can be hard to cope with and the parents suggesting making your kid quit cold turkey obviously have never tried themselves. It takes a seriously one-sided view of the subject to suggest that as an option. Highlight the fact that they need to ween off and that its a dangerous chemical they are not old enough to handle yet. Teach them that the same thing happens with heroin or crack and that they are lucky they only had an issue with nicotine because worse drugs can hospitalize you. Teaching your kids moderation is better than just saying no “because I said so”

  • Ally
    September 14, 2018 at 3:56 pm

    My 14 yr old has started to vape. He goes ballistic if I hide his vape away from him. Violent even. I feel like calling the police, to be honest.

    • alec
      September 24, 2018 at 12:59 am

      withdraw, i found my sisters vape stick thingy and hid it from her, not exactly sure what to do

    • Deb
      February 28, 2019 at 3:24 pm

      Mine too. Very angry, mean and violent. Never saw that side of him. Breaks my heart that he’s addicted and these companies make billions from it.

  • Jenn
    September 4, 2018 at 5:28 am

    I found the apparatus and threw it out. My son got violent. Should I keep doing this if I find them and he keeps buying them?

  • Lisa
    August 29, 2018 at 10:44 pm

    Claire wth!! No bales are allowed in my house period or in my child’s possession! May treach them a lesson if you cut them off cold turkey it’s not going to kill them. Wow!! smh🤦🏻‍♀️

    • Taylor
      September 12, 2018 at 1:46 am

      First learn how to spell then come back and let us educate you on what happens if you cut someone off cocaine now it’s not bad but if it’s 50s or 60s then they can actually get sick and yes they won’t die but your kid/ kids won’t make it any easier for you when your cleaning their puke up from the floors

  • Lou
    August 25, 2018 at 12:05 am

    One night, I started smelling a strange smell. Not a bad smell, actually kind of like a dryer sheet. Then I started feeling odd. I felt as if I had just had truck driver convenience store coffee. My nerves were shaking like a leaf. I dismissed it. This would only happen when my son was home., Then I found the supplies in his draw as I put up clothing., Am I the only one that has had second-hand vaping effects. Anyone else have this?

  • M.Marinelli
    August 21, 2018 at 8:04 pm

    Shocked when I saw my neighbors barely 6 yr old son puffing on a vape. I immediately called his mother and almost fell off my chair when I told her he was outside puffing on a vape. I assumed he snuck it from his father who I have seen using a vape. Her response was “Yes I know, I’m out here with him!!!

  • Claire
    May 28, 2018 at 2:21 am

    I mean yeah it’s bad but don’t cut him off cold turkey. I know parents who have done that and their kids get mood and sometimes violent. I mean yes you should take it away but if it’s like 50 nic you need to slowly bring him down so he doesn’t crash. After a week and he’s at 0 take it away he doesn’t need it anymore.

    • GOD
      September 25, 2018 at 1:10 am

      who in gods name is doing 50 nic. holy shit that child can take enough nicotine to kill an elephant

  • nama jeff
    April 11, 2018 at 5:49 pm

    no