The PAStart Communication Action Series
- 1 in 4 high school students reported vaping in the past month.
- Vaping is linked to an increased risk of COVID-19 among teens.
- 99% of vape products contain nicotine.
- Teens who use e-cigarettes are four time more likely to smoke tobacco later.
- A new study finds that vaping is not a safe alternative to smoking and may be more harmful than tobacco cigarettes.
- Be empathetic.
- Try to recall what is was like to be a teenager.
- Know what to ask.
- Be an attentive listener.
- Employ Positive Parenting techniques.
- Avoid criticism.
- Commit to patience.
- Share facts and resources.
- Answer questions honestly and directly.
The best time to talk to your teens about vaping is before they start.
The tobacco industry markets vaping products to your teens and pre-teens using teen-friendly flavors to mask the taste of nicotine and other chemicals. Know how these tactics create a culture of misinformation among your teen’s social group.
Vaping has quickly risen to one of the most common substance use behaviors among teens. One in five high school students reported vaping in the past month.* According to the Surgeon General, vaping has now reached “epidemic proportions among this population.” Vaping is inhaling the aerosol produced when using an electronic combustion device (Juul, PuffBar and others). Ingredients found in these aerosols can include nicotine, formaldehyde, lead, marijuana (THC), and other toxic and addictive chemicals.
Due to their small size, most vape devices are easy to hide. As one design becomes familiar, new streamlined devices hit the market all the time and can resemble USB drive sticks, cell phones, pens, and lipstick. Some are disposable and others are rechargeable.
Health effects from vaping can include coughing and wheezing, mood swings, headaches, seizures, vomiting, asthma, and lung disease.* Additionally, vaping has been demonstrated to negatively affect teens’ attention span, learning, and impulse control in school, sports and social environments.*
Parents and caregivers are engaged in a balancing act between granting young people their freedom and keeping them safe. Therefore, it is important when talking to the young person in your life, that you do so being mindful of the suggestions outlined in the toolkit and utilize the resources for support.
Marketing 101: Know Your Audience
Teen-targeted vape flavors on the market include Apple Juice Box, Bubblegum, Kool-Aid, Gummi Bears and Fruit Loops.
Now that you know, where do you start? Learning these facts is an important first step. But it’s crucial to create a plan for on-going open communication, and to be mindful of engaging your teen with respect. Positive role modeling, compassion and speaking the truth will go a long way to help you take action effectively.
1. Before You Talk: Be Ready to Listen.
A conversation is a two-way street. Mutual respect, transparency, compassion and hearing what your teen says will go a long way toward giving your facts and position more clout. Your teen started vaping for a reason. Start there. IMPORTANT: No single resource is a magic bullet. Assemble all the available tools at your disposal into your playbook. Start with this PDF by the CDC: Talk With Your Teen About E-cigarettes: A Tip Sheet For Parents*
2. The Conversation: Look for Your Moment.
There is no “one size fits all” time or way to initiate a conversation like this. Your teen’s reactions are likely to be affected in part by their age and maturity level. The best results come from authentic connection. Watch for the right lead-in. Avoid confrontation. Maintaining patience and empathy will build a foundation of trust. The Children’s Hospital of Colorado breaks down the conversation according to the age of your teens in this guide: CHCO-Vaping Provider Handout*
3. You've Gotten Their Attention: Now What?
Your teen may be vaping for social reasons. Find out what he or she thinks they know about vaping. Chances are they are unaware of the vast potential for harm. The tobacco industry spends millions of dollars marketing these products as fruity water vapor. Provide answers to questions and dispel misconceptions. Appeal to their good judgment. The American Lung Association offers ways that lead to healthy conversation scenarios in this discussion. Check out their website.
4. Great Start: Don’t Stop!
Continue the conversation. These tools can help formulate your communication plan, but e-cigarettes contain highly addictive substances. One talk is probably not going to be enough. Your teen is going to need ongoing support to help them quit. Keep the lines of communication open and the discussion alive. Discover resources together and encourage them to be part of the process. One of the best tools available to help your teen to feel empowered to quit – on their own terms – is MyLifeMyQuit.com*
Regardless of all the resources that tobacco companies pour into their marketing, the truth is out there and readily available. All these tools and more are on the PAStart.org/Vaping. Use our collection of materials to create a strategy that will engage and empower you and your teen. They’re all designed to help you get started.