How to talk to your child about vaping

October 22, 2019 Swedish Pediatrics Team

Vaping has gained popularity among youth. Learn about the effects of vaping and how to talk to your child about its dangers.


A survey taken in 2018 showed 1 in 5 high school students used e-cigarettes. That’s more than three million kids – and up by 78 percent from the previous year. The dramatic increase in e-cigarette use by youth is causing great concern among parents, teachers, coaches, health administrators and legislatures. And for good reason.

The American Lung Association warned that e-cigarettes are not safe and can cause irreversible lung damage and disease. Recently, more than a handful of vaping-related deaths have occurred, and more than 450 possible cases of lung illness associated with e-cigarette use are under investigation.

The Juul, a brand of e-cigarette, is popular among teens because of its small size and minimal smoke. The device can be concealed because it looks like a standard USB drive, making it much easier for teens to vape in school bathrooms, a bedroom or a car – often undetected. And some Juul pods offer flavors like cotton candy and fruit punch that appeal to kids of all ages.

The real truth about vaping

Vaping is very dangerous. Unfortunately, there’s a misconception that vaping and using a Juul are better alternatives to cigarettes.

“These devices were originally designed for use as a bridge from traditional tobacco use to quitting,” says Elizabeth Meade, M.D., chief of pediatrics at Swedish Pediatrics. “This has led to an ongoing perception among young people that these are safe and there isn’t anything to worry about when using them.” Read the full article and watch the video here.

“While there have been success stories of people using them to help cut down on their tobacco use or to quit smoking completely, what we’re finding is kids are starting to use these who never used tobacco before.” 

Vaping entails the inhalation of aerosol that contains fine particles with different amounts of toxic chemicals. These toxic ingredients are linked to many health issues, some of which could develop into life-long conditions, including:

  • Nicotine, alcohol and opioid addiction
  • Lung disease, lung tissue damage and inflammation
  • Cardiovascular damage and risk of heart attack
  • Impulsivity and mental health problems

More than two-thirds of teenagers who vape use flavored products. “There is a strong misperception among teens that these flavored products have no nicotine,” says Dr. Meade. The Healthy Use Survey shows that about half the kids said they’d tried an electronic cigarette and 20 percent of high school students indicated they’d used it in the last month. “One of the most disturbing trends is that 10 percent of eighth graders said they tried these as well.”

The U.S. Surgeon General reported that e-cigarette use among high school students increased 900 percent and 40 percent of young users had never smoked regular tobacco. 

Vaping myths

The facts surrounding vaping are clouded in many myths. According to the Department of Public Health and Environment, kids and parents need to be aware of these myths:

Myth 1: It’s just water vapor. It’s not just water, it may contain harmful, cancer-causing toxins.

Myth 2: Vaping is safer than smoking traditional cigarettes.  Vape e-juice may contain nicotine and lead to shortness of breath, asthma, coughing and lung disease.

Myth 3: Vapes don’t contain nicotine.  Ninety-nine percent of e-cigarettes contain nicotine. In a single Juul pod, it contains about the same amount of nicotine that is in a full pack of cigarette. “We know this is very dangerous because toddlers who have accidentally ingested a pod have died. This means that parents who use these products in their home should be extra cautious about keeping them under lock and key.”

Myth 4: Vaping is not related to smoking regular cigarettes. Kids who vape are at least four times more likely to smoke traditional cigarettes.

“What we know is that the younger people start using tobacco products the more chance they have of becoming addicted,” says Dr. Meade. 

How to talk to kids about vaping

As a parent, coach, mentor or friend, you can be a role model. Even if you feel like you’re not being heard—what you say and do matters.

  • Before you talk, understand and separate myth from facts. Learn everything you can about vaping so you can answer questions.
  • Be prepared to share details and answer questions. Show your kids pictures of vaping devices and talk with them about how to respond if a friend offers it to them.
  • Make sure you listen to your child and provide a safe environment for starting the conversation. – Don’t criticize, and keep in mind their perspective. The pressure from other kids at school is real so convey that you understand how they feel.
  • If you know your child is vaping, stay calm. – Don’t judge.  Instead, use it as an opportunity to talk about the dangers, your love for them and desire for them to grow into a healthy adult.
  • If you see others vaping, ask how they feel about it. – This is a great way to start the conversation.
  • Set rules. – Make the rules clear, as well as the consequences if rules are broken.

Also, keep these tips in mind:

  • Talk to kids early and often about any substance use.
  • For kids who are using or considering using vaping products, ensure they understand the health consequences.
  • Nicotine is highly addictive for kids and can harm a developing brain.  
  • Nine out of 10 people who are lifetime users started before the age of 18.
  • Keep kids and pets away from vaping liquid (e-liquid). If your child drinks e-liquid, immediately call Poison Control at 1-800-222-1222.

Find a doctor

Pediatricians at Swedish are helping parents and caregivers educate kids on the dangers of tobacco and e-cigarette use. To learn more about talking to your kids about the dangers of vaping, find a pediatrician in our provider directory who can be your partner through every stage of your child’s life.

Related resources

Nicotine addiction and quitting smoking

Quitting Smoking: The Stages

Interactive: Smoking and Tobacco Related Diseases

HealthWatch Newsletter

This information is not intended as a substitute for professional medical care. Always follow your healthcare professional's instructions.


About the Author

Whether it relates to vaccinations, allergies, nutrition or sleep, The Swedish Pediatrics Team is committed to helping you find resources to ensure your littles grow up healthy and strong. Our clinical experts offer tips, tricks and clinical advice to help you take care of your children.

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