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.
The Rise of Teen Vaping in High Schoolers
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.
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.
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.