Teen vaping in the age of Coronavirus
Over the years, our Prevention Plus team has traveled around the country talking to teens, teachers, and parents about the dangers and complications that can arise from vaping, and the tactics used by the tobacco industry to entice them to use. In all of our discussions with youth, one thing always rang true: teens primarily vape at school.
When we would ask nearly every group of students or adults where the number one place teens were vaping was, they would inevitably come back with the answer “school bathrooms”. In the age of quarantine, school bathrooms aren’t “a thing.”
There is little information on the rates of teens using vapes and e-cigarettes before quarantine compared to now, but current studies show that the rates of marijuana and alcohol use has skyrocketed. And it seems like a safe bet to assume vapes have as well. So now, while many kids and teens struggle with battling a nicotine addiction, it is important that we discuss what you, as a parent or concerned adult, can do to help.
Unintended outcomes of quarantine
For many parents, spending much, much more time at home with your kids or teens can bring new connections, diverse ways of communicating, or even some new revelations. Unfortunately, one of the revelations parents might be making now is that their teen is struggling with a nicotine addiction due to vaping. Because vaping naturally encourages teens or children to become more secretive about their behavior, because it is forbidden in most homes, these youths become better and better at lying and hiding. Now, with the magnifying glass of spending 24/7 in the same home, many of these secretive behaviors may be coming to light.
Signs to look for
It is crucial to discuss some signs that parents can look for in order to check in with their children. Some behaviors to watch out for that can be a sign of a nicotine addiction are irritability, restlessness, nervousness, difficulty concentrating, depressed mood, anger, frustration, changes in appetite, insomnia, secretive behavior, and isolation from friends and/or family.
The reason I felt it was important to list so many is because not all of these symptoms unequivocally point to a nicotine addiction. It’s important to watch for the signs.
But it is also important to understand that if your teen is getting a little more reclusive, wants to be left alone, and seems moody, the underlying cause may or may not be vaping. One symptom is not a definitive diagnosis of vape use. It does mean however that there might be a disconnect happening or that they’re not coping well with quarantine. It is an opportunity to see how you can help your teen.
The importance of open communication
At Prevention Plus, one of the things we stress very strongly is the importance of open and constant communication between parents and children. When you child feels comfortable talking to you about seemingly trivial things, such as their friends, what is bothering them at school, what kind of music they are into, etc., then they are more likely to feel comfortable talking to you about more important things, such as any peer pressure they are experiencing, or serious struggles they are having. So, it is important that especially now during all the stress we are all experiencing, to sit down with you child, maybe watching tv or eating dinner, and just start a casual dialogue. Start small by discussing food, tv, music, whatever it may be, just to get the conversation started. Then, as time goes on, your child/teen will be more open to more serious conversations like how they are feeling about quarantine, if they are struggling with any substances, etc.
Finally, I want to mention that many teens start vaping because of peer pressure, or with the intent to only try it a few times, or under the guise that it is not addictive, and accidentally become addicted.
The first and foremost emotion to try and keep in mind if you child tells you that they are struggling with vaping is to have compassion.-Ray Lozano, CEO/Founder of Prevention Plus, LLC
The first and foremost emotion to try and keep in mind if you child tells you that they are struggling with vaping is to have compassion. This is difficult because as parents our tendency and instinct is to want to immediately stop the behavior. Keep in mind that nicotine is one of the most difficult chemicals to quit, and the tobacco industry makes it so sneaky that a lot of teens don’t even realize they have a problem until it is far too late. But having an open, honest, and compassionate conversation with your child/teen is the best first step in moving forward.
We have many resources on our website that go further in depth about how to handle this difficult situation.
If you want even more information, we run a vaping webinar, along with many other webinars such as nutrition, phone addiction, gangs, and more.
Our vaping webinar goes into what is really inside of a vape, what makes them so dangerous, and how the tobacco industry targets teens to get them addicted.
The nice thing about webinars is that they tend to be more personal than reading an article or watching a video, and you can have an opportunity to ask some questions firsthand with our staff of trained professionals.
Stay safe out there.
Prevention Plus online, pre-recorded trainings:
How to help teens stop vaping:
Teen Smoke Free.Gov