Teens and Vaping: The Risks, The Facts and One Father’s Solution

What I Learned About Vaping

Pardon me if I sound like parents in every past generation when I say that teenagers today may be harder than ever to control. You can’t get through to them. They live in a fantasy world that we parents don’t have access to.

Now I’ll tell you why my generation of parents has a tougher job than any parents who came before us: I think peer pressure is at a level no one has ever seen before.

This Ain’t Your Grandpa’s Peer Pressure

I believe peer pressure is at the heart of today’s generation “Grand Canyon.” (The “gap” ended about 20 years ago.) When teens fall into behaviors that any normal person would know are dangerous — in my son’s case, it was vaping, which I’ll talk about in a minute — parents battle more than just the activity or the substance or the thinking process. We battle massive peer pressure that completely blocks kids from hearing wise parental advice.

My son Caleb is 15. Eight months ago, he casually mentioned that he was vaping with his friends. For those of you who may not know, vaping means smoking fake cigarettes that were designed to help smokers quit smoking. These “e-cigarettes,” as they’re called, aren’t legal for sale to people under 18. But after some research, I found that teens of all ages are using them in record numbers. I also discovered dangers I never knew, simply because I didn’t pay attention — maybe because I didn’t think I had to. Caleb was a “good kid,” after all. But let me tell you, they definitely caught my attention:

  • E-cigarettes contain a liquid mixture of nicotine, chemicals and carcinogens that if swallowed can cause seizures, respiratory arrest, coma and death.
  • E-cigarettes are not a safe alternative to cigarettes.
  • Teen vaping rose close to 80% from 2017 to 2018.
  • The FDA says vaping among teens is an epidemic.
  • E-cigarettes are a “gateway drug” to real cigarettes.
  • Nicotine negatively affects teens’ ability to think, control their impulses and make decisions.

When I was a teenager, I was a victim of peer pressure. But not like Caleb. I hung with my friends maybe a few hours a day. Caleb, through his smartphone, can hang with his friends virtually every waking second. His peer influence never stops, and until recently, it was infinitely stronger than the influence he got from me, his single dad.

What I Did About the Vaping Problem

Telling Caleb to stop vaping didn’t work. Surprise! Explaining that his peers are not good role models went in one ear and out the other. Grounding him led to more tension in the house than I could handle, and he still found a way to vape. Giving him a rundown of the negative effects and illegality of vaping didn’t faze him. Peer pressure is strong, so I needed a stronger opponent, and I needed to be patient.

I was happy to find a number of online resources created by professionals in the therapy industry that talked logically about vaping and offered both reasons and ways to drop the habit. I sent Caleb several links, and being a naturally industrious kid, he did the rest — without intrusion from me.

Teen on a mobile phone
I sent several links on the research done on vaping, and being a naturally industrious kid, he did the rest.

I think this is what made the difference: He knows right from wrong and smart from stupid, but he was better off hearing it from an objective, authoritative source than from his old man, a source that was easily refuted by his influential peers. I waited for the right moment to have an open dialogue about what he had read and what made sense to him.

I learned to play Grand Theft Auto and hum along with “Chlorine,” a song by something called Twenty One Pilots.

Getting straight information from experts woke Caleb up, and the process woke me up too. As Caleb opened up about what he was learning and feeling about vaping, I realized I needed to have the conversation a little bit at a time and really listen. I started being even more involved in his life and the things he enjoyed too. A single parent must wear many hats, none of them less important than the others.

So Caleb has stopped vaping, and I learned to play Grand Theft Auto and hum along with “Chlorine,” a song by something called Twenty One Pilots. Just goes to show you the things we parents will endure to help our kids.

If you have a son or daughter who’s experimenting with e-cigarettes, here are a few resources you might find helpful. I strongly recommend you further your research and check out the many online programs designed to help young people avoid vaping and other dangerous behaviors.

American Lung Association

Centers for Disease Control and Prevention

U.S. Surgeon General

FDA

American Academy of Pediatrics

E-Cigarette Education

Health Plan of Nevada has created a program to help educate parents and teens on e-cigarettes/vapes. It includes consultations with the parent and teen provided by one of our HEW Licensed Alcohol and Drug Counselors, and is designed to give you the most accurate information available!

To find out more or to schedule a consultation, please call Health Education and Wellness at 702-877-5356 or toll-free 1-800-720-7253.
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