vaping and youth

Vaping & Teens — MY Teens

JUUL, vape, pens, mods, tanks, ENDS…no matter what you call e-cigarettes, they are ubiquitous. If I’m aware of vaping everywhere, you can bet our tweens and teens are, too.

Are they able to say No to vaping — over and over again? I did some research and then asked my own teens.

Disclosure: This post is in partnership with Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment. Opinions are mine.

“Vaping’s So Invisible It Happens in Class”

Our school district’s superintendent reports that Colorado’s youth are vaping at twice the national average. Not something a state wants to rank for.

EdWeek tells teachers and principals what they need to know about Juuling. Here are a few things that parents — like educators need to know:

  • Juuling can be really difficult to detect because students are “crafty about concealing their vaping habits.”
  • The tiny device can go undetected because it can look benign, like a USB drive, and it can easily be hidden.
  • Juul cartridges come in kiddie flavors such as gummy bear, mango, and cotton candy, and don’t give off an olfactory clue the way smoking tobacco does.
  • There’s a YouTube culture that shares with viewers how to vape and hide vaping from adults.
  • Vaping crosses demographic and social groups. “Students who we would never expect to smoke cigarettes have picked up vaping without reservations.”
  • And, alarmingly, 63% of people ages 15-24 are unaware that JUUL contains nicotine. And is therefore addictive and luring kids in for the long haul.
  • Kids tell in their own words how they hide JUUL use and how prevalent use is in their high school (PBS News Hour video).

Talking with My Own Teens

Although we have had early and frequent conversations with our own teenagers, now 17 and 15, my husband and I discovered that both have not only been exposed to vape but have partaken.

“It’s everywhere,” Reed said. “In fact, it’s hard to stay away from.”

I asked how hard he tries to stay away.

“Well,” he proceeded carefully, “It looks cool, you know? The big YouTubers make vaping look cool. And it looks harmless. Athletes do it in the locker room. They think it won’t damage their lungs the way smoking does.”

He admitted he has tried vaping, but chose not to keep doing it (hmmmm…mental note to stay vigilant). My husband and I told him this is a good decision, as he gets closer and closer to making all his own decisions and facing all his own consequences. We then addressed the “harmless” misconception by citing some of the negative health effects of vaping. We also vow to keep this conversation going, as we are not so naive to think vaping has suddenly become a nonissue.

Our daughter wrote down what she wishes to share with other families.

“Parents tell you at age 10 or 11 about things that are bad for you, and you probably agreed they are bad, too. But fast forward to when you’re  in high school and you have to be cool and protect yourself from not being made fun of if you don’t do  vape or do other things that might not be healthy. It’s harder to resist when you’re older! When you go to high school you have lots more freedom. And when you are 16 or 17 you think you’re untouchable and nothing can hurt you.”

Tessa continued:

“I have seen and heard first-hand my friends and other teenagers say I’m a kid; vaping won’t hurt me or let’s do it because we gotta fit in. But now I know all these things are very silly because really, you have no clue what’s in the vape or what’s in any drug.”

My daughter closed with advice for parents:

“Be there for them. Feel safe for them to talk to. Talk but don’t lecture. Remember that in the end they want to figure it out on their own until they finally see omg mom and dad were right about everything!

(Bold mine, lol).

What’s a Parent to Do with a Vaping Child?

The Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment has created a suite of materials to help parents and other caring adults understand the risks of vaping, and prepare them to have conversations with their teens about it. Visit TobaccoFreeCO.org/know-the-facts for these resources and more.

Lori Holden's book cover

Lori Holden, mom of a teen son and a teen daughter, blogs from Denver. Her book, The Open-Hearted Way to Open Adoption: Helping Your Child Grow Up Whole, is available through your favorite online bookseller and makes a thoughtful anytime gift for the adoptive families in your life. Lori was honored as an Angel in Adoption® in 2018 by the Congressional Coalition of Adoption Institute.

16 thoughts on “Vaping & Teens — MY Teens”

  1. We were at the doctor the other day and there were two posters in the exam room about vaping. I walked over to look at one and Matthew (7.5) said, “what does that say about vaping?” I was floored. I asked how he knew about it and he said that his dad told him that it’s bad and to never do it (good job, Brian) and that he won’t. But how did he know what it was from the pictures?!?! He’s 7!

    I don’t worry too much about Matthew, but Bryson…. he’ll do anything someone tells him to do.

  2. Vaping is the new epidemic we’re currently facing. Despite all the negative consequences, what people don’t understand is how damn addictive nicotine is and vaping delivers significantly higher levels of nicotine than cigarettes ever could. So the need for early intervention is much greater given that kicking the habit will be a lot harder.

    Tessa’s words are spot on and important given that countering this requires open and honest conversations that happen again and again. Teens aren’t thinking about the long-term effects, so the focus needs to be on addiction and choices. Not to mention how incredibly silly people look while sucking on something that looks like a flashdrive.

  3. Ugh, vaping. I’m not even sure how prevalent it is among teens here, but I’ll ask my high school coworkers. I’d be interested to know, as fortunately it doesn’t seem too common anymore. A few years ago it was absolutely all the rage, and you couldn’t get away from it. Glad to see that trend pass! And I’m super glad to hear your kids are not vaping—but I can’t believe how grown they’ve gotten!!

      1. Yep, both my kids have vaped. As early as 7th grade when I first found out. Worries me more than tobacco frankly. How can mango/strawberry/fruit punch etc artificial flavors be at ALL good for your lungs?

  4. My 12 year old has commented that she doesn’t think it’s a good idea to have a vape shop next to her school…

    She’s kinda prudish, and somewhat health conscious, so I hope she won’t succumb to the allure of doing the “cool thing.”

  5. What a great post! And how sad to hear the comments that it “looks cool” and the resultant peer pressure. That’s exactly the same as smoking in the 70s. And then to read that there is so much more nicotine in vaping. It’s all quite depressing. But I think I’ll send your post to my sister. Just in case.

  6. I love your kids! As a teacher, I can tell you that vaping is a huge problem. I’m in middle school, and we have situations with kids getting caught with e-cigarettes and JUUL devices fairly regularly, and it’s treated like a drug infraction. It is scary how small they are and how sneaky you can be. I am always looking around hawkishly like a crazy person every time I smell a strong bubblegum, fruit, or chocolate smell in the hallway — sometimes it’s a body spray or actual gum, but sometimes it could very well be vaping. We had a situation on the bus to D.C. last year where there were kids that were being very, very hyper, like pretty much manic, and when we had to switch busses because ours broke down I was like, “Whose USB is this?” and it…wasn’t. It was a JUUL. But there was no way to know whose it was (although we had our suspicions) because we never saw it happen, and kids are eating a ton of sugar on those bus trips. I hate the way the vape clouds look, I see them out cars ALL THE TIME. And it’s true that kids do it in class — kids visiting from high school say that happens all the time, not just in bathrooms. Sigh. So irritating, because with flavors like bubblegum and chocolate cherry and stuff like that, you KNOW the manufacturers have their key demographic in mind. Not to mention, why make a device so small and sneaky if you want people to use it openly and proudly? Harrumph.

  7. What’s sad is I have seen commercials on TV about a former smoker turning to vaping as a way to stop smoking cigarettes. The commercial flat out states vaping is safer than cigarettes! How can they get away with that lie? Recently I saw a video of my son (posted by his friend) vaping and he thinks it’s cool and wants to get his own vape pen. He is 19 and has struggled with asthma his whole life. Thank you for providing some fact sheets I can use when I talk to him, but I don’t know if he will listen. Most of his biological family members smoke and he has a very strong desire to emulate them, so I worry there will be little I can do to stop it.

  8. I’m so glad you wrote about this! As I’m returning to coaching high school girls again, this is good information to have. I take my job seriously as a role model and mentor to them. I find it so wrong that manufactures target young teenagers, making it easy for them to hide and giving them such enticing flavors. It’s really sad.

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