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By: Steffanie Kelshaw, LPC, CSAC
September 25, 2019

Vaping- the act of inhaling and exhaling the vapor produced by the heated nicotine liquid of an electronic cigarette or JUUL- has become an increasingly alarming habit, especially among teens and emerging adults. Partially due to its attractive packaging, kid-oriented flavors, and increasing social media presence, vaping or JUULing has become the latest “hit trend” among many high schools and college campuses. According to the University of Michigan’s 2017 Monitoring the Future study, nearly 1 in 3 high school seniors tried vaping in the past year. But new research on e cigarettes suggest that it may not be a healthier alternative to smoking cigarettes, as was previously thought. According to the company’s website, the nicotine content of one JUUL pod is equivalent to one pack of cigarettes.Because of these high nicotine levels, vaping is extremely addictive — and teens are already more susceptible to addiction than adults because their brains are still developing. This makes teens more likely to habituate to using drugs and alcohol and contribute to problems with concentration, learning and impulse control.

So what can parents do to help prevent their teens from vaping? The first step is to become informed with the latest data and research on vaping. Children are much more likely to be receptive to concern if parents are educated about the topic, rather than just saying “it’s bad for you, don’t do it”. Children often need to understand the “why” to follow rules. Researchers also suggest getting a sense of what your child knows (or thinks they know) about the product, which gives you an opening to educate them about the harmful effects of vaping.

It is also helpful to recognize warning signs that your child may be vaping. According to the Partnership for Drug Free Kids, warning signs include the following: equipment (you may find devices that look like flash drives, e-juice bottles, pods (that contain e-juice) or product packaging); online purchases / packages in the mail (be on the lookout for purchases made online and charged to your credit card or unusual packages that arrive in the mail); scent (you may catch a whiff of a flavoring, such as chocolate

cake or bubble gum, where there appears to be no other source); increased thirst / nose bleeds (some of the chemicals used in e-juices have the effect of drying out the mouth and nasal passages); decreased caffeine use (if your child drank caffeinated energy drinks and quits, it may be as a result of vaping); vaping lingo (kids often brag about their vaping exploits on social media- be sure to monitor this); and appearance and behavior changes (sometimes there is a noticeable change in friends and a decrease in activities that were once enjoyed).

Once you are educated about vaping and can recognize the warning signs, be sure to set clear expectations with your child. Express your understanding of the risks, but also why a person might want to vape. Share why you don’t want your child vaping (i.e. concern about toxins, nicotine, marijuana, unknown health risks, injuries due to batteries, gateway to cigarette smoking). If you choose to set consequences, be sure to follow through, while reinforcing healthier choices. It is also important to be a good role model. Set a positive example by being vape and tobacco-free. If you do vape, keep your equipment and supplies secured.

If you are worried about your child becoming addicted to vaping, help is available. Your child may respond to your concerns about vaping if they hear it from another trusted adult or medical professional. Call Steffanie Kelshaw, LPC, CSAC today at 571-800-9909 for a free 15-minute phone consultation to discuss how she can help. Steffanie is a Licensed Professional Counselor and a Certified Substance Abuse Counselor at Mount Vernon Center, Alexandria.