Talking With Your Teen About Vaping

vaping and teens

This content was sponsored by Health Canada, but opinions are my own. 

Growing up, anytime my mom would talk to me about something serious, it always started with, “what do you think about ”x”?” or “how do you feel about “x”?”, “has this ever happened to you?” or “do you know about “x”?”

Even when she didn’t have the tools (like a book), to have the conversation, she could always get me to talk, even when it was awkward. Timing was important too. Fast track 30 years later and I’m having to think about strategic ways to have important conversations with my daughter–all while ensuring I’m not just saying, “no you can’t do that because I say so”, but rather, “you have a choice, but you need to know the facts”.

No matter what decade or the issue, youth need to feel empowered to know they have the tools and right information to make decisions and as parents we have to know the facts too. We can’t just base everything on our own experiences—we need to help our teens navigate difficult issues. You may not be able to control every single thing your teen does, but you can make the choice to get informed.

 Vaping? What is it?

What we know: The long-term consequences of vaping are unknown – so why risk it? Some of the chemicals found in vaping liquid like vegetable glycerine and propylene glycol are safe for use in products like cosmetics and sweeteners but the long-term safety of inhaling these substances is unknown and continues to be assessed. Vaping is not harmless, yet Canadian teens are trying vaping products. Data from a recent Health Canada survey showed that 23% of students in grades 7–12 have ever tried an electronic cigarette.

Knowing this, how do we even begin to talk with teens about vaping? Parents know best what approach is likely to work with their own child but here are some ideas to get started:

Choose the right moment

Don’t be reactive, but rather, be proactive. Sometimes talking with your teen when you’re on a drive can help or while you’re watching a news program or show with a relevant angle could make it easier to ask questions. It doesn’t have to be formal. For example, when passing a group of teenagers who are vaping, take the opportunity to have a conversation with your teen about it. Discuss the facts and correct any misconceptions. It can also be a learning opportunity for you as a parent.

Ask them questions to get their perspective

Be honest about vaping and the risks associated with it. Ask them what they know and if they have had a conversation about it with friends. Talk to them about nicotine addiction, its effects and how hard it can be to quit vaping once you’ve started.

Explain your concerns

Avoid criticism and encourage an open dialogue. Remember, your goal is to have a meaningful conversation, not to give a lecture. If you use vaping products or have in the past, be honest with your child about the risks, and any regrets, difficulties and health effects resulting from your experience. Talk to your child about when and why you started to vape and explain how you thought it would make you feel, and how it may be affecting your health.

Numbers matter, but there’s more to the story

Vaping nicotine can alter teen brain development and can lead to nicotine addiction.  Not all vaping liquids contain nicotine, but for those that do, the level of nicotine can vary widely. Some mixtures have very low levels, while others can contain more nicotine than a typical cigarette.

 Get More Support

Not sure where to begin? Ask your healthcare provider to talk to your teen about the risks of vaping. You might also suggest that your teen talk with other trusted adults, such as relatives, teachers, faith leaders, coaches, or counsellors who you know are aware of the risks of vaping. These supportive adults can help reinforce your message as a parent.

Keep the conversation going

Don’t expect to have just one conversation with your child. Odds are you will probably need to talk about the subject many times and in many different places. Whenever you have some time together, you can strike up the conversation again. You will also find that as your child grows, your conversations about vaping will change and reflect their growing maturity, intellectual abilities and the pressures they face.


For more information about the health risks of vaping with nicotine read more tips from Health Canada here.


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