(Healthline) – In December 2018, the National Institute on Drug Abuse released a report detailing a “dramatic increase” in the use of vaping devices by teenagers, stating that 37.3 percent of high school seniors had vaped within the previous year.
Vaping within the previous 30 days had also increased, nearly doubling from 11 percent in 2017 to 20.9 percent in 2018.
Boasting fruity flavors combined with convenient and often easy to hide devices, the vaping industry appears to have reached a successful target market in teenagers.
And while cigarette use among teens had previously been on the decline, vaping has once again increased teen’s interest in, and use of, nicotine products.
That news might be worrisome enough for parents. However, with the latest influx of e-cigarette related lung conditionsTrusted Source and the reported deaths of 34 people in 24 states, it isn’t difficult to see why many parents would be upset if they discovered their child was vaping.
Nevertheless, how a parent reacts when they discover their child is vaping can have a huge impact on their behavior.
So, what can parents do to help their child avoid vaping, or convince them to stop if they’ve already started?
Arming yourself with as much information as possible is a good start.
What we know about the dangers of vaping
Despite marketing ads claiming e-cigarettes are a safer alternative to smoking, they’re addictive.
Experts also warn that addiction to nicotine at a young age not only makes it harder for a person to quit, it can cause brain remodeling, changing the threshold for addiction to other substances in the future.
Some e-cigarette products, such as Juul, also contain nearly double the concentration of nicotine as regular cigarettes. And according to a recent NPR report, there’s very little standardization regarding what else goes into these products.
In other words, the potential hazards are high, and as of yet, not completely known.
Your best bet is prevention
John Mopper is an adolescent therapist and co-owner of Blueprint Mental Health in Somerville, New Jersey. He says his clients report that, “at any given time between classes, there can be 15 to 20 people vaping in the school bathroom.”
This type of influence is important to know about. “As kids turn to teens, it’s natural for them to push back against their parents to assert their independence and to turn to their peers for support and guidance instead,” Mopper said.
That means parents are already fighting an uphill battle when it comes to keeping their teens away from vaping. But starting those conversations early and often may be one of the best ways to keep your teenager from going down that path.
“If parents want their kids to stay away from vaping before they start, precedents need to be set at an early age,” Mopper said.
But he’s not just talking about labeling vaping as “bad” and telling your kids they shouldn’t do it.
“I’m referring to allowing your child to explore and push boundaries starting at an early age, guiding them along the way, and allowing natural consequences to take place,” Mopper explained.
Doing so helps children learn how to make good decisions in the first place, he says. “If a child is kept away from negative things, they never learn the skill of making their own rational and reasonable decisions,” Mopper said.
American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) spokesperson and primary care pediatrician at CHOP Care Network Dr. Brian Jenssen advises parents to consider the example they’re setting as well.
“It’s really about expectation management,” he said. “Not being a smoker and not using e-cigarettes yourself. One of the greatest factors for teens becoming a cigarette smoker is having a parent who is a smoker.”
Beyond that, he says the messaging we send kids about nicotine use is important.
Instead of harping on the dangers of smoking, he suggests talking to teens about how the makers of tobacco products are trying to manipulate them — because no teenager wants to believe they could be easily manipulated.
“It’s also about being involved in the larger public health landscape, raising awareness through school systems and helping to establish regulations to protect teens from the tobacco companies,” Jenssen explained.