Navigating E-cigarettes: A guide for parents
By Lili Jurayj • Addiction and Recovery Services Program Coordinator
E-cigarette use is on the rise in both teens and adults in the United States. This year, 5% of the total U.S. population admits to using vapes, with nearly 20% of that number being high school and middle school students. This alarming statistic highlights the fact that there is nearly a one in five chance that an underage person in the U.S. is engaged in e-cigarette use (National Institute of Drug Abuse, 2021).
E-cigarettes, also known as vapes, puff bars, pens, Juuls, and other electronic nicotine delivery systems (ENDS), were introduced to the market in the mid-2000s. In 2014, they became the most used nicotine product. Initially designed to aid in quitting or reducing smoking, they were once thought to be a relatively harmless way to consume nicotine. However, these smokeless devices are far from harmless, being linked to adverse health effects such as lung scarring, cardiovascular disease, heightened risk of respiratory distress, cancer, and various other health complications.
The market is flooded with a wide range of ENDS, varying in nicotine content, delivery methods, and intensity. One prominent brand in the mid-2010s was Juul, which drew intense scrutiny from the FDA beginning in 2019 due to its targeted marketing towards children and the high nicotine concentration in each “pod.” Shockingly, each pod contained as much nicotine as 20 cigarettes. Depending on the speed of use, a pod can last for a couple days to a week, which means in a five-week span, an individual can easily vape the equivalent of 100 cigarettes (CNN, 2018). As a response to these concerns, there have been restrictions on nicotine flavors like Alpine Berry, Mango Nectar, and Crème Brulé, which were identified as appealing to younger audiences. Additionally, dosage maximums have been implemented.
Navigating conversations about nicotine use with your child can be challenging. Here are some tips to help you start this important dialogue:
Timing matters: Choose an appropriate moment to initiate the conversation. Perhaps you witness someone using an e-cigarette, or you pass by someone vaping. This can make the conversation feel more natural and less accusatory.
Listen and be patient: Encourage an open dialogue with your teenager. Let them know that your aim is to understand their perspective. Ask open-ended questions to try to get them talking so you can understand what they know and think about this.
Address their questions: Be prepared to answer any questions they might have. Some may not fully grasp the risks associated with vaping or nicotine use in general. If you don’t know an answer to a question, do some research together.
Lead by example: Maintaining a tobacco-free lifestyle yourself can make quitting easier for those around you.
Don’t wait: As a parent, you should foster opportunities for your child to be honest with you and create a space to discuss difficult topics. This can help pave the way for open communication in the future, and possibly prevent a vaping addiction from starting in the first place.
It’s essential to acknowledge that conversations like these can be uncomfortable and might not reach a resolution all at once. Understand that progress isn’t always linear, and these discussions might require time to unfold.
If you have questions about how to speak to your child about difficult topics, reach out to our JFCS Parent Coach. You can start with a 30-minute complimentary parent coaching call, just use this short form to get started. If you have inquiries about vaping, nicotine use, or substance-related issues in general, don’t hesitate to reach out to the Addiction and Recovery Services department at JFCS: email@example.com or 952-542-4837.
Sign up to read more articles like this and stay up-to-date!