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    How to Tell If Your Child Is Vaping

    If you discover that your teen is vaping, address it as you would any other health risk and try to resist the urge to lecture, yell at or punish them. It is important to keep the lines of communication open, show your child that you are concerned about their health and safety, and keep the discussion from devolving into a useless standoff.

    How to Tell If Your Child Is Vaping


    You may find devices that look like flash (USB) drives, e-juice bottles, pods/cartridges (that contain e-juice) or product packaging. Aside from leaf marijuana, gel jars that contain highly concentrated marijuana extract (dabs), small tools to scoop dabs and cartridges that contain THC oil (a yellowish-brown substance) are signs of vaping marijuana.

    Online purchases / packages in the mail / store purchases

    Be on the lookout for purchases made online and charged to your credit card or unusual packages that arrive in the mail which may contain vaping products. Kids also buy vapes at big box stores, gas stations or from other friends.


    While the smell from vaping is faint, you may catch a whiff of a flavoring. For example, if you smell bubble gum when there’s no gum in their room or chocolate cake when you aren’t baking anything, take note. It might be a flavored nicotine vape. Marijuana vapes can produce a skunk-like smell.

    Increased thirst / nose bleeds / interest in stronger flavors

    Some of the chemicals used in e-juices dry out the mouth and nose. As a result, some kids drink more liquids, have nosebleeds and may begin to crave stronger flavors (when the mouth is dry, flavor perception is reduced).

    Decreased caffeine use

    Some teens and young adults who vape nicotine develop a sensitivity to caffeine because both nicotine and caffeine are stimulants. The combination of multiple stimulants can make them feel anxious. If your child drank caffeinated energy drinks and has cut back or quit, it may be because of vaping.

    Vaping slang

    You may see vaping slang in text messages such as “atty” for an atomizer, “VG” for vegetable glycerin found in e-juice or “sauce” referring to e-juice. Getting “nicked” refers to the euphoria experienced with high doses of nicotine. Feeling “nic sick” refers to heart palpitations, nausea/vomiting or lightheadedness associated with the overuse of nicotine vapes.

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    Social media and online references

    Kids often brag about vaping on social media. Look for pictures or references on their Instagram, Snapchat, YouTube, Twitter and other social media accounts. Take note of popular vaping terms in their online searches.

    Appearance and behavior changes

    Vaping nicotine may lead to anxiety, irritability, difficulty concentrating and loss of appetite. Vaping marijuana can result in bloodshot eyes, dry mouth and thirst, increased appetite and shifts in behavior and mood. Sometimes, there is a noticeable change in friends and a decrease in activities that they once enjoyed.

    Physical symptoms

    Physical side effects of vaping may include trouble breathing, headaches, cough, dizziness, sore throat, chest pain and allergic reactions such as itchiness or swelling of the lips. More severe effects include worsening of asthma symptoms, lung disease or failure and heart disease.

    Talking with Your Kids About Vaping

    As a parent, you hold a significant amount of influence over your child’s actions. By talking to your child about vaping, you may help them choose to not vape or to try quitting. Before you begin this important conversation, look for opportunities for talking with your kids about vaping in a calm and reasonable way.

    When you think about it, there’s likely no shortage of ways into this conversation. Look for news stories, letters from the school about vaping policies, ads, seeing someone vaping on TV or on the street or passing a vape shop. Be ready to listen rather than give a lecture. Similarly, be sure to focus on health and safety rather than threats and punishment.

    Try using open-ended questions to get the conversation going, such as, “What do you think about vaping?” In these conversations, get their perspectives, acknowledge the potential appeal of vaping and help them weigh the risks against the perceived benefits. When answering their questions or comments, offer honest, accurate, science-based information rather than trying to scare them. Finally, try to have these conversations frequently, calmly and, if you can, before they try vaping.

    Try to understand why

    Most kids start vaping due to curiosity, because friends and family vape, the appealing flavors, to do vape tricks, or because they think it’s cool or want to fit in. Over time, vaping can become habit-forming as kids use it to address other needs such as relief from boredom and anxiety. Some may become addicted to nicotine and continue vaping to avoid withdrawal symptoms.

    If your child has already tried vaping, it helps to understand why. Consider asking questions like: “What do you enjoy about vaping?” or “How does vaping make you feel?” Answers to these questions highlight your child’s needs that can be addressed in a healthier way. It is also important to challenge children on their perceptions of norms. Teens tend to overestimate how many of their peers vape and research shows that such overestimations increase the risk that they will vape to ‘be normal’ or just like their peers.

    Set clear expectations

    Share why you do not want your child to vape and indicate that you expect your child not to vape. If you choose to set consequences, be sure to follow through, and make sure that these consequences are not overly harsh, punitive or long-lasting. At the same time, try to encourage and reward healthier choices and ensure that your child has other means of having fun, feeling cool, fitting in, alleviating stress and addressing anxiety or depression.

    Role play resistance skills

    Teach your child skills to resist pressures to use. Children in middle or high school are likely to be in social situations where they are offered an opportunity to try vaping. You might ask, “What would you say if someone offered you their vape?” See how your child would handle the situation. Practicing something along the lines of “No thanks, I’m not interested,” said with direct eye contact and assertive body language can help your child be prepared.

    Set a good example

    Set a positive example by being vape- and tobacco-free. If you do vape or smoke, keep your equipment and supplies secured.

    Last Updated

    September 2023