Although the amount of teenagers smoking cigarettes is at a 40-year low, an increasing amount of teens are picking up a new habit: vaping. Vaping is “using an electronic cigarette to inhale vapor infused with flavor, nicotine, both or neither.” Many teens have gravitated towards this new habit due to the enticing flavors, such as Wild Berry, Cotton Candy, and Cinnamon Roll. It may taste good and look cool, but it’s still harmful, as it contains nicotine, which can affect a teen’s developing brain. If you find your teen is vaping, here are some tips to start a conversation about it and express your concerns.
Accept that facts might not be the fix
Just because teens (and adults) are aware of the drawbacks of a behavior, does not mean that they will automatically change their habits. For example, many of us still eat junk food, forgo the workout, and stay up late, even when we know the consequences of doing so.
Hear your teen out
Without judgment, ask specific questions to further explore your teen’s views. Ask, “What do you think of vaping?” or “ Do you know kids that vape?”. Also, ask your teen what he or she already knows about vaping. These questions will not only open up the lines of communication, but they will give you an opportunity to inform your teen about vaping as well.
Search for the “Why”
Some teens vape to impress their peers, experience nicotine with “less-risk”, or to push the limits with adults. Ask your son or daughter, “why do you vape?”, “Do you vape alone or with your friends?”, or “do you vape when feeling stressed, anxious, or low?”.
Express that you understand the allure of vaping; it can help you teen feel like you hear him or her. Also, it can make your teen more receptive when you discuss the risks of vaping (inhaling chemicals that affect the brain and are addictive, and how vaping can lead to other substance use).
Share your thoughts
A teen’s developing brain is vulnerable to addiction and nicotine is very addictive. Vaping solutions that do not contain nicotine may still be harmful due to “compounds that may become toxic or even carcinogenic when vaporized.” In addition, “metal microparticles that are released by the e-cigarette’s heating coils can… put kids at risk for reactive airway disease, asthma and even emphysema.” Teenagers will respect your honesty when it comes to expressing what you know and what is still being researched.
Know the limits of your power
Being too stringent with rules can make you appear overly controlling and may cause your teen to further push the limits in order to regain control. To avoid a power struggle, express your expectations and an awareness that he or she has control over his or her decision. You might say, “Vaping isn’t harmless, so I hope you will steer clear of it. That said, I don’t have the power to make this choice for you. It’s something you will decide for yourself.”
If you feel the need to make rules about vaping, explain that there will be consequences if he or she vapes. Some consequences might include losing privileges, having more responsibilities at home, or seeking further support, such as therapy.
Although it may not be easy to engage your teen in these conversations, having open lines of communication help reduce a teen’s urge to take risks. Your teen will be more receptive to you talking to him or her instead of lecturing at him or her.
(Source: How to Talk With Teenagers About Vaping by Lisa Damour, PhD)