Parents are grappling with how to deal with their vaping teenage children.
The surge in vaping among middle and high school students seems to have come out of thin air. In a 2017 to 2018 comparison, the FDA reported the usage of e-cigarettes increased by 78% among high school students and almost doubled among middle school students. This rapid increase has caught many parents off guard, leaving them with more questions than answers.
Vaping has become a cultural phenomenon among teens, fueled by social media, the high-tech designs of devices and appealing flavors like mango, crème brûlée and fruit medley. But adolescents may be unaware of the adverse effects of this fad.
A recent survey showed many teenagers and young adults don’t realize vaping pods contain nicotine. They believe these devices create harmless vapor, but in reality, many popular and sweet-flavored pods contain 5% nicotine — the equivalent of a pack of cigarettes.
Although this may seem alarming, experts warn parents to not allow their concerns to turn into panic. Instead, they should focus on getting informed and guiding their children to make healthier choices. Here are some tips and resources to help parents deal with their vaping teenagers.
The dry-mouth side effect
One known side effect is dry mouth. Vaping dries the mouth’s natural saliva. Since saliva helps protect the lower teeth from tooth decay, teenagers may suddenly develop serious oral health issues, especially if they’re also consuming energy drinks or other sugary beverages. Parents need to be aware teenagers might mitigate these side effects by using a high fluoride and dry mouth solution, such as Colgate Prevident Dry Mouth or Biotene Dry Mouth toothpaste.
Make the first steps count
An excellent online resource is the vaping guide for parents from Partnership for Drug-Free Kids. Armed with information and tips, the next step is to have a conversation with your teenager. The emphasis should be on having a conversation rather than a confrontation, explains Pat Aussem, a licensed counselor and expert on counseling parents of teens on vaping.
“It’s helpful to ask open-ended questions like, ‘What do you find appealing about vaping?’ or ‘How do you think vaping affects people longer-term?’” Aussem says. “It’s important for parents to make their expectations clear and to offer help if a teen feels he or she will struggle to quit.”
If you believe your child will shut you out or refuse to talk about this topic, ask another trusted adult, such as an aunt, uncle, grandparent, an older sibling or the teen’s pediatrician, to have this conversation, says Aussem.
Path to helping teens quit vaping
The good news is many teens who’ve experimented with vaping may not have developed an entrenched habit yet. That means if they decide to quit, they may not experience withdrawal symptoms.
If the teen is already addicted to nicotine, look at additional options to help your child quit. Cognitive behavioral therapy can be effective by helping teens redirect their thoughts and behaviors when the urge to vape kicks in.
Talk therapy with a licensed counselor can also address underlying anxiety or depression if it’s present. And focusing on activities, such as yoga, a sport or hobby, can help calm the mind while coping with withdrawal symptoms.
Quit apps with helpful information and tips can be downloaded to your teen’s phone and can double the success rate of quitting.
If your teen is still struggling with nicotine addiction, you may want to consult a pediatrician about options for nicotine replacement therapy, such as patches, gum and lozenges to complement CBT therapy.
While there’s no one foolproof approach to ensure success, Aussem emphasizes it’s important for parents to intervene early and as often as needed to help their child quit.
“If a parent is feeling stuck, he or she can call the Parent Helpline,” says Aussem. “The Helpline is staffed with knowledgeable specialists who can spend some time talking with parents and give them some practical guidance.”
Handy resources for parents to tap into on vaping: