How To Talk To Teens About Vaping

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NPR on 10/06/2019 by Emily Vaughn

Vape pens are easy to conceal, they’re easy to confuse with other electronic gadgets like USB flash drives, and they generally don’t leave lingering smells on clothes. All these things make them appealing to underage users, and confounding to parents. Gone are the days when sniffing a teenager’s jacket or gym bag counted as passive drug screening. Now if parents want to know if their teens are vaping nicotine or cannabis, their best bet is a good old fashioned conversation.

And with news of an outbreak of life-threatening vaping illness sweeping the country, and vape use at an all-time high among teens, the issue feels more urgent than ever. Here’s what to say — and not to say — to help your child deal with peer pressure and misinformation, and stay safe.

Explain the health risks, because some kids really don’t know

Surprisingly, there’s a widespread the misconception among teens that vaping is safe. “Two thirds of kids didn’t realize Juul always has nicotine,” says Robin Koval, CEO of Truth Initiative, a public health organization focused on ending tobacco use. “Many of them started vaping thinking it was just great flavors and water vapor. They certainly didn’t sign up to become addicted.”

Dr. Suchitra Krishnan-Sarin, a psychiatrist at Yale University, who specializes in teenage substance abuse, says when it comes to some ingredients, “we don’t really know the long term effect on your health.” She says the advice she gives her own son is: “Don’t put something in your body if you don’t know what’s in it.”

It may seem obvious, but make sure your kid understands that vaping comes with health risks. There’s even more risk for vape products purchased informally, which could have been adulterated, and for THC-containing products — which the CDC warns people to stay away from altogether until it has a handle on the vaping lung disease outbreak.

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