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The unfortunate fact is that you may not know if your child is vaping, because the devices are easy to conceal and leave no lingering odors. That’s why its important to have fact-based conversations with your child that will educate them about the many consequences of vaping. This can help prevent them from vaping or help them make informed decisions if they are already vaping.
What should you say?
Not all facts resonate with teens the same way as adults. Here are some messages tested on teens that have been found to be most relatable.1
Vape e-liquids contain potentially dangerous chemicals.
Let your child know they aren’t inhaling just water but rather an aerosol that can contain nicotine, fine particulates, flavorants, and metals such as lead. The short- and long-term impacts of inhaling many of these chemicals are not currently known, but the research isn’t looking positive.
It can be helpful to talk about some of uses of ingredients found in the aerosol; for instance, benzene is found in car exhaust2 and formaldehyde can be found in cigarette smoke and kerosene heaters.3 Also, some chemicals that are considered generally safe when eaten, like propylene glycol, have not been thoroughly tested to determine whether they’re also safe when inhaled deep into the lungs.
The vaping industry is driven by big business.
Most teens today will tell you that smoking is gross—and there’s no way they’d ever do it. They also may consider vaping a slightly rebellious activity that won’t get in the way of grades and sports teams.
What if they knew that many vaping companies, including Juul, are owned at least in part by tobacco industry giants? The Altria Group, parent company of Phillip Morris and the leading US cigarette manufacturer, owns a 35% stake in Juul.4
As cigarette companies find themselves in a declining market, they can hedge their bets by continuing to earn revenue with e-cigarettes.5 Also, because some teens who vape will convert to smoking cigarettes, the companies benefit from ongoing cigarette revenue.
So, the people manufacturing and profiting from e-cigarettes—including the marketing teams behind all those “cool” social media campaigns—are actually employed by multi-billion-dollar corporations.
The vaping industry purposely marketed to youth.
Juul claims to offer a smoking cessation tool for current smokers—presumably an older age bracket—but, for years, their advertising featured youth barely over 18, often in suggestive poses, against bright, fun backgrounds and in hip settings. The ads would appear on social media platforms popular among teen users, and Juul hired social media influencers to promote its products among their audiences, which included youth, on these same platforms.6
Additionally, Juul and other manufacturers offered flavors that appealed to youth, like mango, cotton candy, candy corn, gummy bear, and more. Many manufacturers’ packaging looks exactly like candy packaging—a design that wouldn’t necessarily appeal to adults.
Juul also provided misleading statements to minors, claiming that Juuling is “totally safe” during a school presentation7 and even sponsored a healthy lifestyles camp for school-aged children.8
Juul is now facing backlash against these illegal practices, including lawsuits brought by the states of California, New York, and North Carolina.
What addiction looks like.
Teens may not relate to the concept of being addicted. It may be easier to point out the results or behaviors of being addicted in a social context. For example, you can ask your child if they want to be seen as a person who always has a vape in their hand, has to step out of rooms and away from conversations because they have to vape, or is reprimanded at work for vape breaks.
Ask your child to add up how much they might spend on pods on a weekly and annual basis ($5 to $10 a week)—then ask them to think about what else they could spend that money on.
1. Summarized from teen vaping campaign research conducted by the behavior-change firm Rescue Agency