E-cigarette use or vaping is on the rise among teenagers. Dr Bronwyn Milne, Mary Wahhab and Dr Jonathan Chandran from the Adolescent Medicine Unit at Sydney Children’s Hospitals Network outlines how to talk to your kids about the dangers of vaping.
Vaping involves inhaling aerosols (often referred to as vape juice or e-liquid) produced by battery-operated devices that mimic the act of smoking by heating a liquid. E-cigarettes can contain high levels of nicotine and are often labelled incorrectly. Nicotine can be highly addictive, particularly in adolescence, which is a critical time from brain development.
While it is now illegal in Australia to purchase nicotine e-cigarettes without a doctor’s prescription, e-cigarettes that do not contain nicotine are not safe. The inhaled vapours may still contain cancer-causing agents, toxins, heavy metals, and tiny particles that may cause serious health problems. Excessive exposure to vaping has been linked with a serious lung condition known as EVALI (e-cigarette or vaping product use associated lung injury) that can lead to hospitalisation and even death.
Know the facts
Do your research on the key facts and learn the basics about vaping devices. Consider what questions your child might ask so you can prepare a response.
Find the right moment to have a conversation and approach the topic in a calm manner. You might choose a time when you’re doing an activity together.
Teenagers and risk-taking
Talking to your teenager about risky behaviors is an important way for parents to help keep their child safe. Having a conversation about e-cigarettes will not only help educate them but help to develop an honest line of communication and encourage young people to share their concerns with parents.
Be a good listener
Listen to what your child has to say and try to keep it a two-way conversation. Be accessible to your adolescent and avoid judgment and lecturing. Seek support on how to build an open relationship with your teen if you find this difficult. (https://www.relationshipsnsw.org.au/support-services/tuning-into-teens/)
Focus on your concern for their health
Focus the conversation on your child’s health and explain your concerns using the evidence you’ve gathered.
If your teenager is vaping, offer support to help them quit.
Sydney Children’s Hospitals Network E-cigarettes and Vaping Fact Sheet (http://18.104.22.168/fact-sheets/e-cigarettes-and-vaping)
Quitline 13 78 48
Your GP or local Youth Drug and Alcohol Team/Service
NSW Health Your Room https://yourroom.health.nsw.gov.au/whats-new/Pages/Vaping-What-we-know.aspx
NSW Health E-Cigarette web page https://www.health.nsw.gov.au/tobacco/Pages/e-cigarette-young-people.aspx (this site also has a list of useful resources about E-cigarettes for parents)
- Guerin, N. & White, V. (2020). ASSAD 2017 Statistics & Trends: Australian Secondary Students’ Use of Tobacco, Alcohol, Over-the-counter Drugs, and Illicit Substances. Second Edition. Cancer Council Victoria.
- Sydney Children’s Hospitals Network. Factsheet: e-cigarettes and vaping, 2021.