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.”
“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.
- What Should I Do If I Find Out My Child is Vaping?
- FAQs for Parents and Adults Who Work with Youth
- Tip Sheet: Talking to Youth
- Fact Sheet: Myths vs. Facts
- Fact Sheet: Vaping 101
Lori Holden, mom of a teen son and a teen daughter, writes 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. Catch episodes of Adoption: The Long View wherever you get your podcasts.
Lori was honored as an Angel in Adoption® in 2018 by the Congressional Coalition of Adoption Institute.