Vaping is the new thing for teens. Data from a recent Health Canada survey showed that 23% of students in grades 7–12 have tried an electronic cigarette.If you think your kid isn’t the vaping type, wake up and smell the coffee (or smell the vapour?) because one out of every four kids in Canada has tried an electronic cigarette, and that might be increasing.
The stylish mini vaping tools are now status symbols at high schools across the country. Do you know what a vape looks like? They come in a variety of sizes, many are tiny and look like flash drives, and because they’re so small, they’re easily hidden. In schools where bag checks are mandatory, kids can easily conceal their vapes in sleeves or socks, areas off limits in school searches.
As a mom of teens, I can assure you that the vaping plague has visited our home. Because of this, I did a lot of research about vaping so I could better understand what my kids are dealing with, and my advice is that you do the same.
If you Google “how to vape”, scores of welcoming websites will pop up. You’ll find friendly, easy-to-follow instructions on how to get started with vaping. Specific features like “many fruit-flavoured vape juices that don’t leave lingering vapour or smell” can fly over the heads of unsuspecting adults and parents.
Vaping is not harmless. For starters, most vape juice has nicotine in it (even if your kids think otherwise) which can lead to nicotine addiction. Children and youth are especially susceptible to nicotine’s negative effects. It can alter teen brain development and affect memory and concentration, which is extremely troubling.
The ingredients found in vaping liquid include glycerol, flavours, propylene glycerol, and varying levels of nicotine. Some of these chemicals are considered safe for use in many consumer products such as cosmetics and sweeteners , but the long-term effects of inhaling these substances in vaping products are unknown.
Unlike smoking, there is no burning during vaping, but the vaping process requires the liquid to be heated. This process can cause reactions and create new chemicals (such as aldehydes). Some contaminants (such as metals) might also get into the vaping products, then into the vapour…and then into our kids.
This raises large, clanging alarm bells for me.
What can well-intentioned parents do? First, get informed; you can start by finding trustworthy information online, including Health Canada’s vaping content and parents tip sheet for talking with your teen about vaping.. Recognize what an e-cigarette looks like. Work with your kids’ school to make sure there’s a No Vaping policy and ask the principal if there are ways the school can help. And most importantly, talk with your kids. Maybe you notice teens vaping on the street? Use it as an opening and start a conversation. Ask your son and daughter what they think about vaping and if they know any kids who vape. Drop in the facts and correct any of their misconceptions and let them know you’re interested in their point of view. Try to avoid lecture-style conversations, because that’s tune-out time for any teen.
Raising tweens and teens is not for the faint of heart. I started a private Facebook group for parents who, like me, are navigating the confusing waters of raising teens. It’s a safe space where we can vent and ask for advice from other like-minded parents. You’re welcome to join here.
The truth is, we need to have these awkward conversations with our kids about all kinds of risky behaviour, not just vaping. Teens face so many challenges, many of which we never considered or even knew about when we were growing up. Add to this the regular pressures of drugs, sex, bullying, mental health, and social media and it’s clear that growing up today is tough. The best thing we can do is to refrain from judgement, and instead just be there to offer the truth and accurate information for our kids, giving them as safe a place as possible in a sometimes difficult world.