Vaping is rapidly growing among teenagers, with approximately 40% of high school seniors reporting that they used a vape device within the past year.1
Contrary to popular belief and flashy marketing campaigns, vaping is not safer than smoking, and may increase teenagers’ risk of lung damage, addiction, and other physical and mental ailments. Here’s what parents need to know about this risky habit.
Vaping involves inhaling a vapor through an electronic cigarette, JUUL, or other vaping device. Instead of smoke, vape users inhale particles of aerosolized liquid instead of smoke. This vape liquid may contain nicotine, artificial flavoring, and chemicals.
In some cases, vape liquid may contain illicit substances such as tetrahydrocannabinol (THC), the psychoactive ingredient in marijuana. These ingredients can be highly dangerous and addictive, especially with long-term use.
There are many different types of electronic cigarettes and vaping devices, each with its own design and components. However, most vaping devices contain two main elements: a cartridge full of vape liquid, and a battery that heats up the liquid to produce vapor.
When a user inhales on a vape, the heating element within the device warms up the liquid, producing aerosolized particles. The user then inhales these particles into their lungs. If the vape liquid contains and addictive substance, such as nicotine or THC, the user will experience the intended effect in the same way as if they were smoking a cigarette or dried marijuana.
If your teen owns vape products and paraphernalia, they may have a vape addiction. Vapes can come in a variety of different designs, which can make them hard to identify. The most common types include disposable and rechargeable e-cigarettes, tanks and mods, and pod mods.
Disposable vapes and e-cigarettes are intended to be used for one time only. These products are pre-filled with vape liquid and discarded once the internal cartridge runs out. They may look like actual cigarettes or pens, or be designed in a similar fashion as never vape models.
The brand STIG is a popular brand of disposable vape devices, filled with nicotine salt designed to absorb into the blood faster than traditional cigarettes. A STIG is similar in size to a Juul, and is attractive to teens due to its low produce and popular flavors.
Reusable vape devices are some of the most commonly used e-cigarettes. These devices are rechargeable and typically composed of two parts: a cartridge and a battery. The cartridge contains the vape liquid, which users can purchase separately and swap out once the liquid is completely vaporized.
These devices are small and easy to conceal, which make them attractive for teen use. They can be used discreetly and easily mistaken for common household items, such as pens.
Another type of reusable e-cigarette are tanks or mods, which are larger devices that are made up of multiple components. These devices can look very different, but most look have a cartridge, or tank, attached to a large brick-shaped battery.
Although not as common among teenagers as the more discreet and cheaper devices, tanks or mods can be used multiple times and modified to customize the vaping experience. These products are known for a higher vape production than traditional e-cigarettes.
A pod mod is a type of e-cigarette that includes either a pre-filled or refillable pod or pod cartridge full of vape liquid. These devices are typically small and compact, and may be used to vape nicotine, THC, and CBD. You can charge pod mods like a phone.
One of the most popular brands of pod mods are JUULs, compact and sleek e-cigarettes that look similar to USB drives. JUUL pods used to come in a variety of flavors that were attractive to teens, including mango and creme, until the federal government placed a partial ban on fruit, dessert, and mint-flavored pods to discourage teen use.
Teen vaping can lead to serious health problems. Marketing tactics from vape companies suggest that vape devices are not as dangerous or harmful as smoking, but the opposite is true. Not only can these devices irritate and damage the lungs, long-term vape use may have an impact on a teenager’s mental development and increase their risk of cancer as well.
Vapes haven’t been on the market for a very long time; the first commercially-available electronic cigarette was invented in 2003. We do not yet understand the long-term effects of vapes, and we may not know how these devices affect our bodies until years in the future.
The line is the teens who start vaping now can experience physical and mental health issues now, and may develop unknown consequences later.
Nicotine, a highly addictive substance found in cigarettes, is a key ingredient in many vape liquids. Over time, a teenager who vapes may develop an addiction to nicotine.
They may find themselves using the device more often and in higher quantities than usual. They may want to stop vaping, but are unable to quit because their bodies are dependent on the substance.
When a teen does try to stop vaping, even for a short period of time, they may develop intense cravings and unpleasant withdrawal symptoms.
Signs of nicotine withdrawal include:
Vaping can lead to serious consequences with long-term use, especially in young people. It is possible to reverse these effects by identifying the habit and taking steps to quit, but since many teens hide their addiction from their parents, it can be difficult for parents to intervene.
If you believe your teen is vaping, watch for the following signs.
Vaping is surrounded by a number of common myths that make the habit seem safer and more attractive than it actually is. This misinformation can make it easier for teens to pick up the habit, and knowing the truth can discourage vaping.
Many teens believe that vape liquid is just flavored water, but that’s not the case. Vape liquid contains nicotine, a highly addictive substance also found in cigarettes, as well as potentially harmful chemicals and toxins. When you vape, you inhale these chemicals into your lungs, which can lead to dangerous consequences.
Discovering your teen has a vaping addiction can be a scary experience. Your first instinct may be to get angry and punish them for their behavior, but doing so can make it more difficult for your child to seek help.
Instead, follow these tips to approach your teen with compassion, credibility, and guidance.
Before you talk to your teen about vaping, conduct some research into vapes, their health effects, and the different types of products available. This will allow you to enter the conversation as informed as possible, and you can pass this knowledge onto your child.
If you believe your teen is vaping, it’s important to be as open and supportive as possible. Acknowledge that vape use is an issue, and let your child know that you are there to help them overcome their addiction.
Entering this conversation in a combative or accusatory manner may cause your teen to shut down and refuse to talk. To encourage your teen to quit, be mindful of your approach.
As angry or upset you may be with your teen for using vapes, it’s important to refrain from punishment when talking about vape use. Punishment often encourages rebellion when it comes to addictive substances like nicotine, and your teen needs support to overcome their habit.
Instead of grounding them or taking something away, focus on how you can help your teen seek treatment and avoid relapse.
Although nicotine addiction can be intense, it is possible to kick a vape addiction.
To begin, make recovery plan with your child. Together, choose a day to stop vaping and write down all of the reasons why your teen wants to quit. Have your teen keep that list with them so they can read it whenever they have the urge to vape.
Then, take the following steps
Remove all vaping supplies from your home.
Visit your physician to talk about treatment options for nicotine addiction.
Look for local resources for vape and nicotine addiction.
Research nicotine withdrawal symptoms and how to cope with them.
Identify healthier activities your child can do when they feel the urge to vape.
Withdrawal from nicotine can be difficult and painful, especially in the early stages of quitting. Your teen may encounter triggers or social situations that encourage them to vape, and the withdrawal symptoms may be too difficult to handle alone.
To avoid relapse, encourage your teen to engage in healthy alternatives to vaping, such as:
You can work with your teen to create a game plan that works best for their needs.
Approaching your child with compassion and a desire to help them overcome their dependence on e-cigarettes can make it easier for them to quit. Remember, your support is valuable.
If your teenager is struggling with vape addiction, help is available. Speak with your physician to learn more about your teen’s options for breaking their vape addiction.