Talking to Kids about Vaping

So, your heart is pounding in your throat, your mouth feels dry, and you are thinking to yourself: “Well, it’s now or never.”  What’s going on?  Are you about to ask your boss for a raise?  Give a speech to 100 people?  Jump out of an airplane to try sky-diving for the first time?

Nope, just trying to talk with a teen about VAPING.  It almost sounds like something Darth Vader or Voldemort might be into, but now you are probably embarrassing yourself, just by thinking that.  I can just see my daughter rolling her eyes now.

So why is vaping (or drugs, smoking, drinking, sex, or anything else) so hard to talk about with kids?

  • Because you love them

  • Because you want them to make safe and healthy choices, without you nagging

  • It feels risky:  You don’t want to stay the wrong thing and have them shut you out as a “dumb adult” who “doesn’t know anything”

  • You are hoping you haven’t waited too long to talk about it

The good news is that just by talking about it with youth (as a parent, coach, grandparent, teacher, faith leader, counselor or friend) you can help them think twice about picking up the most popular form of tobacco tried by kids in middle school and high school today.  The key is just to start the conversation.

Still scared?  Don’t worry, we are here to help you.  Here are some tips from the experts at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) about how to have “the talk” (and we don’t mean the sex talk):

     1. Be curious and play dumb.

Ask what they are seeing, what they’ve heard.  By asking open-ended questions like, “I’ve been hearing a lot about vaping, what have you heard?” and don't let them off the hook by asking questions that they can just answer "yes" or "no" to.  Let them be the expert, “schooling” the dumb adult.  You are also not placing any judgement in terms of good/bad choices or behavior by taking this approach.

2. Know what you are talking about.

Yes, this requires you do a little bit of research on your own before sitting down with a teen.  You can check out our prior blog to learn the basics about e-cigarettes, vaping and JUULing here.

3.  Give quick soundbites of information.

It is ok, and probably more effective, to have an ongoing conversation where you share bits and pieces of information over time.

4. Turn to your screen for help.

Teens and youth learn about ENDs from Social Media.  ENDs stands for electronic nicotine delivery systems.  Bring up a YouTube video of some kids vaping and ask teens what they think about it.  Show them an advertisement online or in a magazine and ask them what they learned about ENDs from the ad.

5. Explain safer, but not safe.

This is really confusing for all of us.  True, people using ENDS are not inhaling the 4,000 chemicals and 400 other toxins that cigarette smoke contains when they are vaping.  But, that doesn’t mean that they aren’t harming themselves when vaping.  The vapor exhaled from a vaping device is not just water vapor and we are still learning how harmful vaping might be.

     6. Don’t wait.

It is never too early to start taking about substance use, especially considering close to 1 out of every 10 eighth graders in the US had tried vaping in 2015 (and that was just as JUUL, the most popular type of ENDs, came on the market).  Read more here.

7.  Look for teachable moments when around kids.

Talk about the negative health risks of vaping if you are around youth.  They may not listen to their parents, but they might listen to you.

      8. They are the next generation of cigarette smokers.

Teen e-cigarette users are more likely to start smoking within the next 6 months  than their non-vaping peers.  We successfully convinced this generation that smoking cigarettes is a no-go, now we need to do the same for ENDS.

9.  Set a positive example.

If you use tobacco, it is never too late to quit.  You can call the Maine Tobacco Helpline 1-800-207-1230 or go to thequitlink.com

Key Messages to Talk About:

  1. Vaping is harmful and addictive.

  2. E-cigarettes, JUULs, and other ENDs contain nicotine.  Nicotine is highly addictive and they can get “hooked” after even just trying it a few times.

  3. Nicotine has serious, life-long consequences for young, developing brains.

  4. We don’t yet know all of the long-term health effects of vaping.  Besides nicotine, many vaping solutions (vape juice) contain other chemicals and toxins which may cause cancer or other diseases.

  5. Even breathing in the cloud their friends exhale from their ENDs could expose them to nicotine and other harmful chemicals (such as nickel, lead, formaldehyde).

You don’t have to be an expert.  In fact, it might be better if admit that you are just learning about ENDs and that you want to learn more, with them.  And remember, we still don’t have all the answers when it comes to vaping and youth, and that may be the scariest part of your whole talk!

If you would like more information on this, or any other health related topic, the health educators at the Learning Resource Center are happy to help. They provide trusted & reliable health information and connect people to local resources in the community. Connect with a health educator today! Be well, be well informed.

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