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Be prepared: Tips on how to talk to your kids about vaping

Be prepared: Tips on how to talk to your kids about vaping

Fall is just around the corner, and it is time to start a new school year.

For students, a less hectic summer has been replaced by a busy school schedule, after-school activities, sports, and possibly peer pressure.

For parents, this is a good time of year to have a talk with their kids about the dangers of using e-cigarettes.

First, know the facts before you start a conversation

E-cigarettes are the most used tobacco product among young people in the United States, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). Using an e-cigarette is often called "vaping."

More than 2.5 million middle and high school students use e-cigarettes. Nearly half (46%) of high schoolers who vape do so daily.

Learn how to recognize vaping products and their dangers:

  • E-cigarettes are electronic devices that heat a liquid and produce an aerosol or mix of small particles in the air.
  • They produce an aerosol by heating a liquid that usually contains nicotine, flavorings, and other chemicals.
  • Aerosols can also contain diacetyl, a chemical linked to serious lung diseases, cancer-causing chemicals, and heavy metals, like lead, tin, and nickel.
  • Some e-cigarettes look like regular cigarettes, cigars, or pipes. Some look like USB flash drives, pens, and other everyday items.

"E-cigarettes expose the lungs to nicotine which can harm the adolescent brain which continues to develop until about age 25," explains Dr. Scott Silverstein, pulmonologist, WellSpan Sleep Medicine. "Nicotine is also very addictive."

Two-thirds of teens and young adults, ages 15-24, don't realize e-cigarettes contain nicotine before they started using them, he adds. Many of them started vaping thinking it was just great flavors and water vapor. They didn't sign up to become addicted.

Support, don't scold

"Whether or not you think your child may be using e-cigarettes, open up a dialogue with them," Dr. Silverstein says. "Be sure to talk about the health risks, because many young people still think e-cigarettes are safe."

He suggests asking your teen what they know about vaping and whether it's happening at school. Help them think through how they'll respond if they're pressured to use e-cigarettes.

Keep these tips in mind during your conversation:

  • Be patient and ready to listen.
  • Avoid criticism and encourage an open dialogue.
  • Remember, your goal is to have a conversation, not to deliver a lecture.
  • Your conversation can take place over time, in bits and pieces:
    • A natural discussion can take place after you witness a situation together, like someone vaping, or you pass a vape shop.
    • Seeing an e-cigarette advertisement together can also spark the conversation.

If you learn that your child is vaping, don't try to punish or shame them. Vaping can influence a young person's mood, attention, and impulse control. It's possible your child is already addicted to nicotine.

Seek out tools and resources

Arm your teenager with information and the reasons for quitting. Be encouraging if they want to stop. Just like cigarettes, quitting vaping is hard. There are tools that help, like This is Quitting, a program designed specifically for young people.

Look for other ways to get help:

  • Ask your healthcare provider to talk to your teen about the risks of e-cigarettes.
  • Ask other trusted adults, like relatives, teachers, coaches, or counselors to speak to your child or teen about the risks of e-cigarettes.
  • Keep the conversation going by visiting the Surgeon General's site for information about the risks of using e-cigarettes:

Set a good example

If a parent or caregiver uses tobacco products, there's an increased risk that a child will also try them.

If you use tobacco products, it's never too late to quit. Talk to a healthcare professional about getting help with quitting. WellSpan offers smoking cessation programs. Click here to learn more.