Young people are increasingly falling prey to the lure of e-cigarettes, more commonly known as vaping. From 2017 to 2018, vaping usage increased 78 percent among high school students and by 48 percent among middle school students, and e-cigarettes are now the most commonly used tobacco product among youth.
Vape devices come in sleek designs that mimic pens or USB drives, and e-liquid is offered in an endless array of flavors that are intriguing to youth like mango and cotton candy. The e-liquid is heated by the battery-powered vape device and delivered to the user in aerosol form.
“Kids falsely believe vaping is safer than smoking cigarettes because e-cigarettes do not contain tobacco,” says Elizabeth Fowlkes, Senior Vice President, Youth Development at Boys & Girls Clubs of America. “However, they do contain nicotine, which comes from tobacco and is addictive, and can contain other harmful chemicals.”
For young people, nicotine exposure can lead to higher risks of psychological disorders, learning difficulties and attention difficulties later in life. The amount of nicotine in one JUUL pod, one of the leading e-cigarette retailers, is equal to 20 cigarettes.
The CDC warns that the aerosol inhaled by vape users can also contain cancer-causing chemicals, heavy metals and volatile organic compounds. Recently, the CDC reported on an outbreak of severe lung illness associated with using e-cigarette products, and recommends that no youth or young adults use these products. The Food and Drug Administration has announced its intention to implement a compliance policy that would aim to clear the market of unauthorized, flavored e-cigarette products.
“E-cigarettes are not currently bound by the same regulations as traditional cigarettes, and retailers are able to market to young people under the guise that vaping is cool and healthy,” says Elizabeth. “It’s critical that parents, educators and youth development professionals start talking to kids about the dangers early and often. Hopefully, with new regulations on the horizon, we can keep more kids safe.”
At Boys & Girls Clubs, high-quality programming grounded in social-emotional development helps support healthy decision-making, so that young people can make informed choices that will have a positive effect on their health. Here are four tips for how to have an honest conversation about vaping with the young people in your life, adapted from the CDC:
- Know the facts. Before having a conversation, it’s important to be prepared. Read our Vaping Prevention Resource Guide and check out the discussion guide and external support resources.
- Find the right time to have the conversation. Look for opportunities to have natural, one-on-one discussions. You may see an advertisement, hear young people talking about vaping or even see them vape. You can use these moments as a springboard to talk about the dangers of vaping, how it can lead to addiction or how to quit.
- Understand their perspective. Young people may be vaping out of curiosity, boredom, rebellion or a desire to fit in. This type of exploration is natural, especially among teens. It’s likely that they think that vaping is harmless. It’s important to understand their perspective to help frame your conversation.
- Have the conversation. Approach the conversation with curiosity and without judgment. Remember that your goal is to have a conversation, not give a lecture, which can place young people on the defense. Use non-judgmental language and ask opened-ended questions to get an idea of what they do or don’t know. By showing your interest and avoiding criticism or scare tactics, you can have a productive dialogue. This will allow you to engage in deeper conversation.
These conversations may be ongoing and take place over time. Regularly check-in with youth and keep looking for opportunities to continue the dialogue and give support when needed.
Read our Vaping Prevention Resource Guide to get more advice on how to have an honest and open conversation with the young people in your life about the dangers of vaping and e-cigarettes.
This article was adapted from an original blog post that appeared on the ClubExperience.blog.