As parents, we have a lot on our plates when it comes to stuff to worry about, right? When our kids are babies, we worry about their sleep schedule and how well they're eating. As they become toddlers, we worry about whether or not they're hitting developmental milestones and how to keep them from climbing all over the furniture. Then they enter school, and it's a whole new crop of worries about how they're adjusting and whether or not they're keeping up. It's just a near-constant cycle of worrying! As our kids reach adolescence and the teen years, the worries don't stop. Right now, parents all over the country are likely trying to figure out how to talk to their tweens and teens about vaping. It's a serious epidemic, and the rate of vaping among tweens and teens continues to rise. Considering the serious health risks associated with vaping and the recent rise in vaping-related illnesses, injuries, and even death, this is an important conversation to have.
The CDC is working with e-cigarette manufacturers to curb the rise in teen vaping, and some states have raised the legal age to 21. But vapes and flavored nicotine liquids are still widely available. So far, there have been 2,100 confirmed cases of a vaping-related lung illness called EVALI, and as of November 20, 41 people have died. This is a frightening reality for many parents.
Two pulmonologists and volunteer spokespeople for the American Lung Association, Dr. S. Christy Sadreameli and Dr. Cedric “Jamie” Rutland, have some tips on how to talk to your kids about the dangers of vaping. The first step is to determine if your kids are already vaping. You may notice a sweet smell, like fruit, or you may notice your kid has a device that resembles a USB drive. Your tween or teen may also exhibit symptoms of nicotine withdrawal, like irritability or increased thirst, says Dr. Sadreameli. If you're not sure if your kid has started vaping and don't know how or aren't comfortable asking them directly, Dr. Rutland recommends asking about their friends. Chances are, if their friends are vaping, your tween or teen is, too.
Talk to your kids about the physical dangers of vaping; don't be afraid to get real by showing them pictures of videos of kids just like them lying in hospital beds and hooked up to ventilators. Explain how the lungs work, and the damage that vaping does to them. Talk about the things they would no longer be able to do if they do permanent damage to their lungs, like playing sports or dancing. It can be hard to get tweens and teens to listen with an open mind and not blow off what you're saying as you being overprotective, so using visual aids is a good idea. If your teen is vaping, reach out to your doctor or a trusted professional to get them help for their nicotine addiction.
This is definitely one of those topics you want to get out in front of, and one that you want to stay on top of at all times. The dangers of vaping are being revealed more each day, and oftentimes tweens and teens don't think about long-term consequences of their actions. If it takes you scaring them into staying away from vaping, then it's worth it in the long run.