The Teen Vaping Trend – What Parents Need to Know

what if my kid is vaping or juuling

How to Talk About Vaping with Your Teen:

  • Know the facts
  • Know the unknowns
  • Know what to say

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With the recent Monitoring the Future Study release indicating that nearly one in three 12th graders reported using a vaping device in the past year, it’s imperative that parents are informed of the potential dangers that can result from vaping.

What is Vaping?

Vaping is the act of inhaling and exhaling the aerosol, often referred to as vapor, produced by an e-cigarette or similar device. It’s become more popular among teens than regular cigarettes, especially given that vaping devices can be used for anything from flavors like mango, mint or tutti frutti, to flavorings containing nicotine or THC, the chemical compound in marijuana that produces the high.

What are the Risks?

There are several risks to vaping for teens. Below are three major ones for parents to be concerned about:

Vaping is often marketed to kids, downplaying the dangers.

With lots of flavors available for vaping liquids, as well as the variety of colors and devices available that charge just like cell phones, it’s clear that vaping products are often marketed to teens. One of the slang terms for vaping, known as JUULing (“jeweling”), comes from the JUUL brand device that looks more like a flash drive as opposed to an e-cigarette. Vaping is also often sold as a “safer” alternative to cigarettes, and some teens are under the false assumption that because e-cigarettes don’t contain tobacco they’re safe.

Vaping chemicals used in the liquids can be more concentrated and dangerous.

Inhaling from a vape pen or e-cigarette, especially in the case of one containing nicotine or THC, can enhance a drug user’s high and can amplify a drug’s side effects. Vaping is also very new and there are literally hundreds of brands, so there’s not a lot of firm information about what chemicals might be in what vape liquids. But even beyond nicotine and THC, synthetic chemicals that make up these liquids – including “herbal incense” like spice and synthetic marijuanaexpose the lungs to a variety of chemicals, which could include carcinogens and toxic metal nanoparticles from the device itself. Not only could these chemicals make their way into young lungs, causing irritation and potentially “smoker’s cough,” but they could also damage the inside of the mouth and create sores.

Vaping may make the transition to cigarette smoking easier in adolescence.

In a meta analysis of six studies, the findings concluded that the risk of smoking increases four times if a teen vapes versus a teen that does not. In another study of more than 2,000 10th graders, researchers found that one in five teens who reported a regular vaping habit at the start of the study smoked traditional cigarettes at least three times a month by the end of the study period. Another 12% of routine vapers smoked at least one day a month. By comparison, less than 1% of students who didn’t try vaping reported smoking even one day a month at the end of the study.

What Can Parents Do?

Make it clear to your son or daughter that you don’t approve of them vaping or using e-cigarettes, no matter what.

If you think your son or daughter is vaping, take a deep breath and set yourself up for success by creating a safe, open and comfortable space to start talking with your son or daughter. As angry or frustrated as you feel, keep reminding yourself to speak and listen from a place of love, support and concern. Explain to them that young people who use THC or nicotine products in any form, including e-cigarettes or vaporizers, are uniquely at risk for long-lasting effects. Because these substances affect the development of the brain’s reward system, continued use can lead to addiction (the likelihood of addiction increases considerably for those who start young), as well as other health problems.

You want your child to be as healthy as possible. Find out why vaping might be attractive to your son or daughter, and work with him or her to replace it with a healthier behavior.

Download Our Free Guide on Vaping

Learn about the new vaping trends, why they’re so appealing to teens, and what you as a parent can do about it.


Need more help? Connect with our Helpline – you can call, text or email – to get one-on-one help from a trained and caring parent specialist.

33 Responses

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    August 20, 2018 at 12:29 PM

    Are there programs in Fairfax county VA ,that a parent can enroll their teen in to have his or her child drug tested periodically during the school year to determine if they are taking drugs?

    Can the school do random drugs test on the behalf of a parent’s request?

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      Josie Feliz

      August 22, 2018 at 12:29 PM

      Thanks for your message Curtis. We have forwarded your message to one of our helpline specialists who can help better answer your question, and she will be reaching out to you shortly.

      Our Helpline is a good place to start if you’d like to talk to someone about what you’re going through. Feel free to connect with us in whichever manner you choose in the future:

      Thank you. -The Partnership for Drug-Free Kids

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    July 30, 2018 at 12:42 PM

    Are there any programs out there designed to help teens break from an addiction to vaping that involves nicotene?

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      Josie Feliz

      July 30, 2018 at 3:56 PM

      Thanks for your message Paul. We have forwarded your message to one of our helpline specialists who can help better answer your question, and she will be reaching out to you shortly.

      Our Helpline is a good place to start if you’d like to talk to someone about what you’re going through. Feel free to connect with us in whichever manner you choose in the future:

      Thank you. -The Partnership for Drug-Free Kids

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    Lisa Anne B.

    June 12, 2018 at 12:44 PM

    I found a vape pen, or something of the sort in my 16yo son’s room. I took it immediately, he was asleep so he did not know I found it. It was clear he was looking all over for it. I eventually talked with him about it and he said it was non-nicotine and he just tried it. I said regardless, he was not getting it back and he did not argue this. We talked about the risks, etc. That was about two weeks ago. Last night I heard him talking to a friend about how they could get another one. He talked about getting “high” from it, but “not too much”, because he’d like that with a laugh – he then confirmed with the friend that he could still vape at his house. I also heard them talking about how to lie to say money was needed for something else. Anyway, two questions… 1. Do I notify the parent of the other child? 2. Should i just reiterate the talk? How about telling him I overheard his conversation? Uggggg, this is awful.

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      Josie Feliz

      June 13, 2018 at 1:26 PM

      Thank you for your message Lisa Anne. I have forwarded your questions to one of our Parent Support Specialists and she will be getting back to you shortly. In the future, please feel free to reach out to our Helpline at 855-DRUGFREE. Thank you. -Josie Feliz

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      June 14, 2018 at 12:24 PM

      Hi Lisa Anne,
      First I think it’s great that you were observant and found the device and that you took action, making it clear that you do not condone his use. From your son’s perspective, it can be a lot of fun – as he notes he is getting some kind of high either from a nicotine buzz or marijuana so it sounds like it’s beyond “just flavorings”. (As a side note, there are concerns about the long-term use of the flavorings as well, as not a great deal is known about how delicate lung tissues can handle what stomach acids can process and there are toxins in them as well although not to the same degree as conventional cigarettes).

      If you feel comfortable, contacting the other kid’s parent can help you develop a united front. Kids will often migrate to where they think they can do substances without parental oversight.

      The way you approach the topic with the other parent is important as some parents will say “not my kid”, condone use thinking that it’s harmless, or be grateful to you for the information and insight. The only way you’ll know though is to make the call. It might help to say that you know your son has tried vaping and have overheard him saying that he might be able to vape at this kid’s house and you wanted to make the parent aware of your concerns. This approach doesn’t point the finger at your son’s friend and hopefully can open the door to a discussion.

      In terms of what to say to your son, it sometimes helps to ask what he enjoyed about it when he tried it. Many kids like the flavors, the clouds produced, the sense of trying something risky/edgy, feeling like “all the kids are doing it so what’s the big deal” and the “safer than cigarettes” argument. The bottom-line is to reflect how interesting it might be and to reiterate your stance that you are opposed to it and why.

      You’ll need to think through consequences if he’s found to be vaping again and share them with him, preferably ahead of time so he will think about the consequences before engaging in any action (i.e. does he lose a privilege, have extra chores to do, have him read research on the concerns about vaping, have him talk to another trusted adult about vaping, confiscate whatever paraphernalia is found, reduce his allowance, etc.) On the flip side, there may be a way to reinforce or reward him for not vaping — thinking through something he would want more.

      You’re welcome to chat with us if you’d like to discuss a plan.
      Wishing you the best,

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    April 26, 2018 at 4:59 PM

    At this point I am very interested in non nicotine or THC vaping. My kid says he is not using either, but I want to know what the risks are with this kind of vaping. Is it harmful in itself, or is it just where it will lead to next that is the concern?

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      May 16, 2018 at 2:11 PM

      there are metal particles that can still get into the lungs from the device itself and yes it is still harmful

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      June 14, 2018 at 12:30 PM

      Hi Rebecca,
      The concerns are that the long-term effects aren’t known as to what flavorings can do to the lungs. Further, the National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine took a comprehensive look at evidence on the human health effects of e-cigarettes and concluded that there were toxins in e-liquids that were of concern although they noted that they were not as toxic as conventional cigarettes. They strongly discouraged teen vaping, worried that it would lead to dependence and be more at risk of trying conventional cigarettes (a four-fold increased risk).

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    February 16, 2018 at 4:24 PM

    It’s a very useful and informative post. I am a parent of a teenager and have been struggling to find a way how to make my child understand this. I look forward to reading more of your writings. Thanks!

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