Teens Vaping: 5 Ways to Convince Them It’s Dangerous


teens vaping

In 2019, over 5 million U.S. middle and high school students had used e-cigarettes in the past 30 days, including 11 percent of middle school students and 28 percent of high school students. I’m sure you can do the math, but that means one in 10 middle schoolers and one in four high schoolers is vaping. That’s insane. When vaping first emerged, I remember thinking it seemed like a great alternative for people trying to quit smoking cigarettes, but I was unaware of the dangers or that teens vaping would become so prevalent.

So what do you do if your teen or your teen’s classmates are vaping (which statistics show is a reality) and you want to make it abundantly clear that it is dangerous and something they should stay away from? It starts with knowing what their arguments are and being prepared to counter them. Here are 5 of the most common.

Like any conversation with a tween or teen, the one about the dangers of vaping needs to come at the right time, under the right conditions. So say a prayer and then take this info and craft it the way you know your teen will hear it best.

1. They say: “It’s not like I’m going to start smoking.”

You say:

“I know you believe that, but statistics show teen e-cig users are more likely to start smoking.”

30.7 percent of e-cig users started smoking within 6 months.

2. They say: “E-cigarettes are less harmful than regular cigarettes.”

You say:

“OK—but ‘less harmful’ doesn’t equal ‘safe.’”

E-cigarette aerosol generally contains fewer toxic chemicals than the mix of 7,000 chemicals in smoke from regular cigarettes. This supports the argument that the dangers of vaping are less than those of smoking cigarettes. However, e-cigarette aerosol is not harmless. See the next argument.

3. They say: “It’s just flavoring!”

When asked what they are inhaling, research shows 66 percent of teens vaping say “just flavoring,” 13.7 percent don’t know, 13.2 percent say nicotine, 5.8 percent say marijuana, and 1.3 percent say other. Manufacturers don’t have to report e-cig ingredients, so users don’t know what’s actually in them.

You say:

“You deserve to know what you’re putting in your body.”

Here is an opportunity for you to make the first move. Ask them if they know what’s in the vapors they are inhaling. The e-cigarette aerosol can contain:

  • Nicotine (even those marketed as containing no nicotine)
  • Ultrafine particles that can be inhaled deep into the lungs
  • Flavoring such as diacetyl, a chemical linked to a serious lung disease
  • Cancer-causing chemicals and heavy metals such as nickel, tin, and lead

4. They say: “Mom, (eye roll) I won’t get addicted.”

You say:

“I know you think that, and I want to believe that, too. But you need to know that you are more prone to addiction than an adult.”

Until about age 25, the brain is still growing. Each time a new memory is created or a new skill is learned, stronger connections are built between brain cells. This happens faster in teens than in adults. Because addiction is a form of learning, teens vaping can get addicted more easily than adults.

5. They say: “I’ll stop smoking when you do.”

You say:

“OK. You’re worth it. Let’s do it together.”

It’s never too late to quit. Exemplify the behavior you want your kids to model.

What argument would your teen give and how would you counter?

Sources: National Institute on Drug Abuse and Office of the Surgeon General

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