Harold C. Simmons Comprehensive Cancer Center

How to Talk to Your Teen About Vaping

Is It Time For The Talk - About Vaping?

Different images of vaping options and tools
Talking about vaping isn’t a “one-and-done” conversation — make sure to keep the lines of communication open with your teen.

How to approach your teen to discuss the dangers of e-cigarette use

Talking to your child about e-cigarette use or vaping might feel uncomfortable, but it’s a very important discussion to have. Vaping is growing in popularity – more youths than adults now use e-cigarettes. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), in just one year (2017-2018), 1.5 million young people started vaping. 

And vaping has been linked to some serious health problems. As of December 2019, more than 2,000 people have developed lung injuries that are potentially associated with vaping activities, and 54 people have died – including some youths. 

Here are seven suggestions for how you could start talking with your teen about vaping. 

1. Look for a natural conversation starter. 

Maybe it’s an ad for e-cigarettes, or you notice someone vaping, or you pass a vape shop. Take the opportunity to ask your teen questions about vaping and whether a lot of kids at their school are trying it.

2. Explain that most e-cigarettes do contain nicotine.

Some teens believe e-cigarettes contain only water and flavoring. Marketing messages have suggested as much. But share the research with your teen that proves e-cigarettes contain a nicotine solution. The Surgeon General’s website or the National Institutes of Health/National Cancer Institute’s website is a good place to start. And emphasize that nicotine is addictive. If you’re an ex-smoker, describe how hard it was to quit because of that addiction to nicotine.

A dangerous disguise

E-cigarettes shaped like USB flash drives are growing in popularity among teens. 

Learn more

3. Point out the dangers of vaping without judgment and let them know you’re concerned about their health. 

According to the CDC, vaping exposes users to harmful chemicals and increases their risk of addiction. The CDC and other government agencies are also investigating serious lung illnesses that are potentially associated with vaping. In addition, the human brain continues to develop until about age 25, and nicotine can harm that development – affecting parts of the brain that control learning, mood, and impulse control. Bottom line: Vaping is not safe.

4. Remind them that not everyone vapes. 

It might seem that way, but most high school students – about three in four – are not regular e-cigarette users, according to a recent survey by the CDC. 

5. Have them calculate the monthly cost of vaping. 

E-cigarette starter kits cost around $8 or $9 in Texas. But then there are the costs of vape pods, e-liquid (or e-juice), coils, and other accessories. Average monthly costs can range from $50-$120. In 2018, the global vaping market was valued at $14 billion; that number is projected to double by 2022 as manufacturers continue to try to attract a youth audience with new flavors, devices, accessories, and a misleading message that vaping is a safe alternative to smoking cigarettes.  

6. Reach your teen on the screen. 

Electronics can offer a good way to communicate with your child. You can text or email interesting articles and research you’d like to share with them. 

7. Keep the conversation going. 

Talking about vaping isn’t a “one-and-done” conversation – bring it up again from time to time. Discuss it calmly. And if you need additional support, consider asking a health care professional to talk to your teen about the risks of e-cigarettes. 

If your teen admits to vaping, even occasionally, point them to resources that can help them quit. 

UTSW Radiologists Are Working to Raise Awareness

A special report published in the journal Radiology: Cardiothoracic Imaging highlights recent cases of lung injury attributable to e-cigarette use. Authors Suhny Abbara, M.D., and Fernando Uliana Kay, M.D., Ph.D., from the Department of Radiology at UT Southwestern Medical Center, aim to raise awareness among radiologists and other medical professionals on how to identify lung injury associated with e-cigarettes, or vaping. 

“Radiologists will continue to play an important role in recognizing this emerging entity,” says Dr. Abbara, who is also the editor of Radiology: Cardiothoracic Imaging. “We encourage the medical imaging community to produce scientific evidence and medical knowledge to help advance our collective understanding of the effects of e-cigarette use on the lungs and other organ systems.” 

Learn more about the nicotine cessation program.