Has the recent news of e-cigarette-related illnesses and deaths left you scrambling to understand how to keep your teen from jumping on the vaping bandwagon?
Join the club. You, and parents across the nation, are wondering how they can address one of the most serious adolescent public health crises of our time.
Unfortunately, the issue is complex. As a parent, you are up against misconceptions, social pressures, and the cool factor of splashy flavors and high tech devices. And while that may sound somewhat discouraging, research from the CDC suggests that parents may have the greatest influence when it comes to tobacco use.
If you’re wondering how to talk to your teen about vaping, here are some tips that can help.
1. Know the facts
There is a widespread misconception among teens that vaping is safe. Many remain unaware that e-cigarettes contain nicotine, increase smoking risk, and can cause significant harm to the user. Do your own research so you have credibility when you talk with your child. Your teen will likely be more receptive if you can provide facts. You can help your teen better understand what nicotine is and the impact it has on a developing brain.
Additionally, some parents may not even recognize a vaping product because they are designed to look like USB drives and other flashy electronic devices. This makes them easy to hide and conceal. Become familiar with their appearance and shape so you can spot one if you see one.
2. Understand the social pressure
Understand that young people likely care more about fitting in with their friends than they do about long-term health risks.
You might say: “You’ve told me that you’re not interested in trying vaping, and that’s a good thing. But sometimes we do get tempted, and then it’s hard to make the right decision. And without meaning to, you could harm your body.”
Help your teen plan for these social pressure situations. Work together to come up with a set of pre-determined responses. “I’ve been around it before and it makes me sick,” or “No thanks, I’m allergic to some of the ingredients.” It can also be helpful to give your teen permission to use you as an “out.” Something like, “My parents are lame and say they’ll take away my college fund if I do it. And that would be the worst.”
Many teens also believe vaping is more popular among their peers than it is in reality. Reminding your teen that more than 70 percent of teens don’t vape, can help them resist peer pressure.
3. Start one of many conversations
The sooner you start talking, the better. Bring up the subject when you see it on television. Or, discuss it discreetly when you see it in public. Continue to talk about it over many months and years. Invite them to ask questions about how they feel and what they think. Then be direct about what you expect. You could say, “I don’t want you to use e-cigarettes because I’m concerned for your health.”
Remember: keep the conversation non-judgmental and open. Nothing shuts down a conversation with a teen faster than a lecture.
4. Be a role model
Your kids look to you for guidance. Be a role model by not smoking, or begin your own journey to quit. If you do smoke, be honest with them about how hard it is to quit and encourage them not to start. For free help quitting, call 1-800-QUIT-NOW.
5. Enlist help
If your child is just approaching his or her teen years, get their educators, grandparents, aunts and uncles, and family friends on board in discussing vaping. These supportive adults can help to reinforce your message.
If you are concerned that your teen is already vaping, take it as seriously as any other addiction. Support them in their effort to quit. Help them to get medical and psychological support.
The MyLifeMyQuit program was developed specifically for teens trying to quit all forms of tobacco, including vaping. It provides youth access to free, tailored resources for quitting, including: five coaching sessions, a dedicated toll-free number (1-855-891-9989) for real-time coaching, confidential enrollment and coaching, additional text messages for support to quit, and a website (mylifemyquit.com) with online enrollment and live chatting with a coach.
Whether they have started vaping, are curious about it, or have never heard about it, don’t wait. Talk to your child today.