Tobacco products and electronic cigarettes (e-cigarettes) can be dangerous to growing children and teens. Nicotine is a stimulant and the main ingredient in cigarettes and other tobacco products. E-cigarettes (also called vapes) may contain nicotine as well. Nicotine is an addictive substance that can cause people to become physically or psychologically dependent. Norton Children’s Prevention & Wellness offers educational programming to help keep kids from using these products.
What Is Vaping?
Vaping is the act of inhaling vapor created by an e-cigarette, which is a battery-powered smoking device. The liquid in the cartridge is heated and commonly misrepresented as water vapor when it truly is an aerosol, which is why e-cigarette use is called “vaping.”
The aerosol is inhaled into the lungs and can contain harmful chemicals, including nicotine. E-cigarettes can look like objects we see in everyday life, such as USB sticks, and can be easy for parents to misidentify as other objects.
Vaping hasn’t been around long enough to know the long-term effects. At this time, we are unsure what the full impact of vaping can be on a child or teen’s overall health. We do know vaping can pose certain immediate dangers, including:
- Lung issues: Health care providers at Norton Children’s facilities have seen an increase in lung inflammation and irritation due to e-cigarettes and vaping. This condition is now known as “EVALI” (e-cigarette and vaping-associated lung injury).
- Addiction: Most e-cigarettes include nicotine in their cartridges, which is highly addictive regardless of delivery method. Even if your child doesn’t vape regularly, addiction still is a possibility and should be taken seriously. In developing brains, nicotine can:
- Slow brain development
- Affect concentration, learning, memory and self-control
- Increase likelihood of smoking cigarettes as an adult
Warning Signs of Nicotine Addiction
- Smoking to help stay away from or “cope” with problems for a moment
- Keeping vaping a secret from family or friends
- Difficulty concentrating on school work
- Changing relationships
- Attempting to quit but failing
- Having anxiety or mood swings
- Feeling shaky or generally uncomfortable when attempting to stop vaping
- Needing larger and larger doses for desired effect, due to built-up tolerance
Talk to Kids About Vaping
If your teen is not vaping, rather than ignoring the subject, openly discuss it. This can help them if they are put in the situation where they might consider using an e-cigarette. They can have all the facts and will be ready to make an informed choice in that moment. It’s important to remind kids about the risks that vaping can cause them.
What If My Child Is Already Vaping?
It is important to understand teens are more susceptible to peer pressure and marketing, and they don’t assess risks the same as adults. Helping a teen find resources to help quit nicotine is a good start. You can begin by having a conversation with your teen. Here are a series questions to begin the conversation with your teen. Choose what you feel comfortable with and get the conversation started:
- How did you come to try vaping? Did you feel pressured? Did you use it as an outlet?
- Do you have stressors in your life right now? Can you tell me about them?
- What are other outlets you have in your life, or could imagine in your life, that would help you destress and are healthier for your mental health, physical health and future?
- Did you look into the side effects of vaping before you tried it? If not, let’s talk about it.
- Have you considered the effects it might have on your life as you continue to grow and develop? If not, let’s talk about nicotine addiction and long-term effects.
- Do others around you vape? Do you feel awkward if you choose not to vape too? Do you think others care if you smoke or not? What is a way you could say no without feeling uncomfortable?
- If you or someone in the household vapes:
- Does seeing (insert name or self) smoking make you think vaping is acceptable?
- What are the rules at your school if you get caught vaping? Will vaping affect whether you can participate in athletics or in school? Why or why not?
If they are already vaping and are not open to discussing it or listening to you, don’t stop there! Consider setting up an appointment with your child’s pediatrician so your teen can learn from a health expert about the health concerns they need to be aware of. If vaping is or might be related to stress, depression or another mental roadblock, consider finding a mental health professional for your teen to talk to openly with. Resources could include:
- School counselor, if available
- Counseling sessions provided by a parent’s place of work for use by family members
- A licensed therapist who specializes in working with teenagers may be covered by medical insurance
Norton Children’s Prevention & Wellness offers free tobacco cessation classes for teens. Group sessions meet once weekly for seven weeks to discuss the importance of having good health, learn tools to prepare for tough moments and support each other on the journey to quitting.
Free tobacco cessation classes also are available for individuals ages 18 and older. Visit NortonHealthcare.com/Smoking for more information and available classes.