Talk to your Children about “Vaping”

Oct 1, 2019, 09:41 AM by Kyle Shelton, DO


Helping children say “no” to cigarettes has been a big deal in recent years. Research shows that teenagers are getting the message. A study by the CDC in 2018 found only 8.1% of high schoolers reported smoking a cigarette in the past 30 days, which is down from 15.8% in 2011. This is good news! However, there is more work to be done. Electronic cigarette (e-cigarette) use is on the rise among adolescents. Electronic cigarette use has become more popular among teenagers over the past several years. The CDC reports that around 1 in 5 high school students (20.8%) reported current use of e-cigarettes in 2018, up from only about 2 in 100 (1.5%) in 2011. Using e-cigarettes is sometimes called “vaping”. Some teenagers may talk about “Juuling”, which refers to the name of a company that produces electronic cigarettes.

So, what exactly are electronic cigarettes? E-cigarettes are not made with tobacco leaves, like “regular” cigarettes are. These devices consist of a mouthpiece, a battery, a heating element, and a cartridge or tank that holds liquid. The liquid is usually made from ingredients in vegetable oils or food additives. It often contains nicotine, which is the addictive chemical found in tobacco cigarettes. The liquid is heated into a mist that the user breathes into his or her lungs. Flavoring such as bubble gum, grape, mint, or others may be added to the liquid to make it taste better. These “e-cigs” may be the size of a USB flash drive up to the size of a deck of cards.

Teenagers may think vaping is safer because they are not breathing in tobacco smoke. However, these products can cause lung-related illnesses and may even cause death. The CDC is investigating the relationship between vaping and deadly lung disease, and some states are considering banning the sale of electronic cigarettes.  The liquids may contain compounds like nickel, lead, or other harmful ingredients. We also do not have a lot of information about the long-term effects of electronic cigarettes.

The American Academy of Pediatrics provides information on the dangers of electronic cigarettes:

  • The nicotine in e-cigarettes is addictive and can harm brain development.
  • E-cigarettes are not recommended as a way to quit smoking.
  • In some cases, e-cigarette devices have exploded, causing burns or fires.
  • Secondhand smoke/vapor from e-cigarettes is harmful to growing lungs.
  • Long-term health effects on users and bystanders are still unknown.
  • E-cigarettes can be used to smoke or "vape" marijuana, herbs, waxes, and oils.
  • The best way to protect your children is to never smoke or vape near them. Talk with your doctor about quitting all tobacco. Never smoke indoors, in your car, or in places that children spend time.

“ Parents may find it difficult to discuss vaping and other risky activities with their children. ”
The American Academy of Pediatrics offers tips for parents on how to communicate with children and adolescents. This is called “active listening”. It helps your child know that you care about what they have to say. This can help your child feel more comfortable talking to you about behaviors like vaping or alcohol use. It can also help when talking about school, hobbies, or “life” in general!
  • Set aside time to listen. Block out distractions as much as possible.
  • Put aside your own thoughts and viewpoints. Give your child your complete attention.
  • Listen to, summarize, and repeat back to your child the message you are hearing.
  • Maintain eye contact while your child talks.
  • Accept and show respect for what your child is telling you, even if you don’t agree with what he or she is saying. Try not to criticize, judge, or interrupt.
  • Create opportunities for your child to solve the problems he or she may be fac­ing. Provide encouragement and gentle guidance. Ask your child to bounce ideas off you, which might help suggest solutions to problems.
Opinion piece and commentary by Dr. Kyle Shelton, Pediatric Intern
Also see:  Adolescent Medicine at UTMB Health Pediatrics

Other resources on electronic cigarettes and vaping:


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