At some point, most parents of teenagers have wondered, “How can I tell if my teen is vaping?” If you are looking for the classic signs of smoking, like a lingering odor on clothes or yellowed teeth or fingers, you won’t find them. The signs of vaping are more subtle, which is why it is important to be aware of them.
Electronic cigarettes debuted in 2008, but in recent years, they have become much more popular with teenagers. The latest studies show that between 27-34% of high schoolers use vapes on a regular basis.
According to the National Institute on Drug Abuse, teens are more likely to vape than to use regular cigarettes and boys are twice as likely to try vaping as girls. Once teens start vaping, they are almost four times as likely to try regular cigarettes.
This is a serious health issue facing our teens and as parents, we need to be aware of what vaping is, and how to recognize the signs in our kids. It’s a subject I addressed on the blog almost a year and a half ago, but unfortunately, the popularity of vaping continues to rise, which is why we are revisiting it now.
What is vaping and why is it bad for teens?
Vaping involves using a small device to heat a liquid. The heated liquid produces an aerosol, which is inhaled. The liquid usually contains nicotine and flavoring, which gives off a sweet smell.
It may seem harmless enough, but the aerosol also contains chemicals that can lead to serious health problems. Plus, nicotine is highly addictive and can cause developmental issues in teens.
Most teens (almost 66%) don’t realize that vaping involves nicotine and the ones who know it is in there, may not understand the full effects of it. Nicotine use in teens can lead to chronic cough, respiratory issues, irritability, difficulty concentrating and a lack of impulse control.
Another serious concern is the consumption of marijuana in vapes. Because it does not give off a strong odor, marijuana is easier to conceal in vapes as opposed to the traditional way of smoking it. Also, if teenagers are sharing vapes, they may not realize they are smoking something other than regular vape juice.
11 physical signs that your teen is vaping
Chronic cough/lung-related illnesses. Vaping inflames the throat and lungs, causing irritation and opening the door for illnesses. Your teen might constantly clear their throat, cough or even experience chest pain. They could also be more susceptible to lung-related illnesses like bronchitis and pneumonia.
Vaper’s Tongue. This is a term used to describe the loss of taste sensation that many teens who vape will experience. Your teen may complain that foods taste bland or start adding extra seasonings and spices to their meals.
Nosebleeds. Exhaling the chemical containing aerosol can dry out the nasal passageways, leading to cracked skin and nosebleeds.
Sores in mouth. Vaping can cause inflammation of the mouth and gums, which can lead to sores that take a long time to heal.
Increased thirst. Vaping drys out the mouth and throat. Your teen might try to combat this by drinking more than usual.
Passing on caffeine. The effects of nicotine may make your teen jittery. Teens who normally rely on coffee or soda might start skipping it.
Irritability. Nicotine affects brain chemistry, so your teen might get agitated more easily if they are vaping.
Shortness of breath. Vaping can have a profound effect on your teen’s lungs, making it harder to catch their breath during exercise.
Trouble sleeping. Some teens who vape will have difficulty falling asleep or staying asleep. If you notice a change in your teen’s sleep pattern, that may be a warning sign.
Weight loss. Nicotine can suppress your teen’s appetite, which could lead to weight loss.
Mood swings/risk-taking. Teens who vape may experience a delay in the development of the prefrontal cortex. This is the part of the brain that controls moods and impulse control.
3 other signs that your teen is vaping
New smells. Most vape juice is flavored and gives off a sweet smell. This is one of the easiest ways to detect vaping.
Unfamiliar devices. Vaping involves heating up a liquid and there are some basic parts to most vaping devices. Some common things you might see include parts that look like USB drives, pens, unfamiliar chargers or batteries, cotton balls and metallic wires.
Discarded pods or empty bottles of juice. If you start seeing strange items in the trash, it could be empty vaping supplies. Look for things that resemble USB drives or small plastic bottles.
What to do if suspect your teen is vaping
The answer seems obvious, right? Sit your teen down and talk to them about vaping.
Remember, almost 66% of teens don’t realize that vaping involves nicotine. or if they do know it, they don’t understand the dangers of it. So your mission is to educate your teenager and help them see the dangers of vaping.
Fortunately, there are plenty of resources available to you. Start by scheduling an appointment with your child’s doctor. They can give your teen a check-up to make sure their lungs have not been damaged as well as give them further information about vaping and the risks involved.
Next, the two of you should call 1-800-QUIT-NOW or check out teen.smokefree.gov. Both are completely free and offer education and resources to help your teen stop vaping.
1-800-QUIT-NOW is run by the National Cancer Institute and will connect you directly to your individual state’s quit line. Each state has trained counselors and resources to help your teen quit vaping.
Teen.smokefree.gov is a website designed specifically to help teens stop smoking and vaping. This is great because all of the resources cater directly to teenagers. In addition to an education section, there are links to a quitting app, a vaping quit plan and social media.
If you are afraid that your teen is being untruthful or just want a test to prove if they are vaping, there are nicotine test kits you can use. These particular ones are urine tests that detect nicotine in the body. There are also marijuana test kits if you think they may have been vaping something other than the regular juice.
How to prevent your teen from ever starting to vape
It’s easier to prevent your teen from starting to vape than it is to get them to quit. Once they become addicted to nicotine, it becomes more difficult to shake the vaping habit.
So how can you stop them from trying vaping? Again, the best thing you can do is talk to your teenager. If you are unsure how to start, check out this article about how to get your teenager to talk to you. And remember, the more you talk about it, the easier it becomes and the more likely your teens are to listen to you.
Also, be sure to set a good example for them. It’s difficult to tell your teen not to vape if you smoke cigarettes or vape yourself. And studies have shown that if you smoke, your teens are twice as likely to begin smoking or vaping. If you need help quitting, call 1-800-QUIT-NOW or visit smokefree.gov.
Vaping among teenagers is a serious problem, but by communicating with your teens and knowing the signs to look for to detect vaping, you can help your teen quit or better yet, never pick up the habit.
If you have other resources you want to share, feel free to comment below!
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