Column: Talking to your kids about vaping

By GRACE WILSON
Youth First Inc

I’m sure by now most parents are aware of the trendy and flavorful activity of “vaping,” but have you been able to speak with your kids about the dangers of e-cigarette (vape) products?

In order to have a productive conversation with your child about vaping, it is important that you know the facts first. While you should also do your own research, here are a few basic facts to keep in mind:

• E-cigarette aerosol is not harmless. E-cigarettes do not produce a harmless water vapor like many believe to be the case. This aerosol contains chemicals such as nicotine (found in most vape products), formaldehyde and acetone. This aerosol can also affect bystanders, similar to second-hand smoke from traditional cigarettes.

• One of the most popular vape products is JUUL. All JUUL products contain nicotine. People have since turned the word “JUUL” into an action verb, so you may have heard the term “JUUL-ing.”

• There are many juice flavors people can use in their e-cigarettes, and unfortunately, they are often targeted toward kids. Flavors such as bubblegum, tropical punch, grape, strawberry and thousands of other enticing flavors are advertised. These flavors also contain chemicals that can be harmful to the lungs when inhaled.

• Nicotine exposure during adolescence can harm the developing brain — which continues to develop until about the age of 25.

So how do you talk to your kids about vaping? If you follow a few simple suggestions, you can set yourself up for a meaningful and fairly easy conversation with your child.

First, as stated above, know your facts. Do your own research and understand the harmful effects of vaping before you begin. If at any time your child asks a question you do not know the answer to, be honest in your response and suggest that you research the answer together.

Find the right time to have the conversation. A more natural conversation will increase the likelihood that your child will listen. If you observe someone using e-cigarettes, see an advertisement or pass a vape shop, these situations would be a good conversation starter. The words “we need to talk” can be off-putting to a child, and they may not want to engage.

Avoid criticism and judgement, and encourage an open dialogue rather than a lecture. If your child is curious about vaping, discloses that they have tried it or have friends that vape, being critical may shut your child down and they will no longer want to talk.

It is OK to break up the conversation into smaller doses. Try to keep the conversation open. This is not a “one and done” type of conversation. If you learn something new after you have had a conversation, bring it to your child’s attention and talk about it together.

Most importantly, ask for support if you need it or have concerns that your child is vaping. Talk with your health care provider about the risks of e-cigarettes. You can also encourage your child to talk with other trusted adults to reinforce your message.

To learn more about the best strategies to address the risks of vaping with your child, check out Youth First’s video called “How to Talk to Your Child About Vaping” on our website: https://youthfirstinc.org/how-to-talk-to-your-child-about-vaping-3/

Grace Wilson is a program coordinator for Youth First Inc., a nonprofit dedicated to strengthening youth and families. Youth First provides 64 Master's level social workers to 92 schools in 11 Indiana counties. Over 60,000 youth and families per year are served by Youth First's school social work and after school programs that prevent substance abuse, promote healthy behaviors and maximize student success. To learn more about Youth First, visit youthfirstinc.org or call 812-421-8336.




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