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How to Talk to Your Teen About Vaping Health Risks


If you are the parent of a teenager, you’ve probably talked about the dangers of smoking cigarettes. But while less than 2 percent of high school students are smoking cigarettes, more than 11 percent are using e-cigarettes, also known as vaping. Denise Abbasi, MD, and Cynthia Wilson-Grillo, DO, pediatricians at Adventist Health, share how these products can harm lungs and explain how to talk to your teen who is vaping.

Find the signs

An e-cigarette, also known as a vape, is a device that heats a liquid — usually tobacco — and turns it into a vapor, which can be inhaled. It might look like a slim metallic cylinder, have large battery packs or be shaped like an everyday item, such as a pen, marker or USB flash drive. There are other signs to look for, too, says Dr. Wilson-Grillo. “Vapes are often flavored, which can appeal to younger users, and you might smell a sweet scent in the air.” Vaping also can make your teen cough.

The Partnership to End Addiction says to look for these clues if you suspect your child is vaping:

  • Smell — many e-cigarettes add flavoring, which produces a light scent
  • Strange packages showing up for your teen; check your credit card for unknown charges
  • Increased thirst, loss of appetite, nosebleeds, and headaches
  • Equipment in their room that you can’t identify
  • Cutting back on caffeine; vaping causes sensitivity to the stimulant
  • Increased irritability and anxiety and difficulty concentrating

Health effects on teens

Maaany people opt for e-cigarettes because they think vaping is safer than smoking tobacco. But according to the American Cancer Society, all forms of tobacco — even vaporized tobacco — can cause health concerns, including cancer.

“Vaping with tobacco can cause serious lung disease and general irritation and can harm brain development in teenagers,” Dr. Abbasi says. “Evidence from the American Academy of Pediatrics also shows that it has the potential to lead to smoking cigarettes.”

Talk it out

It’s possible your teen may not realize that vaping carries some of the same dangers as smoking. “Have an honest conversation about health concerns and be sure to express that you care about your teen’s well-being,” Dr. Wilson-Grillo advises. “Avoid shaming them about their choices.”

If you need extra help, talk to your teen’s pediatrician. She adds, “We can provide resources to quit smoking and share the potential complications of smoking and vaping.”