Vaping: Know The Signs & Talk To Your Teen About The Dangers of e-Cigarettes

The use of e-cigarettes, also referred to as “vaping,” poses a significant – and avoidable – health risk to young people in the United States.

According to the latest results from the Monitoring the Future survey of substance use behaviors and related attitudes among 8th, 10th, and 12th graders in the United States, vaping continues to be the predominant method of nicotine consumption among young people. In 2021 the percentage of students who reported vaping nicotine within the past year decreased significantly for all grades in the US.

Despite the decline in the use of e-cigarettes, it’s important to understand the signs and have conversations with the teens in your life about the dangers of vaping and associated behaviors.


Warning signs of vaping include:

  • Changes in behavior. Unusual changes in the way your teen is acting, such as cutting back on caffeine or getting frequent nosebleeds, can be signs of vaping in your teen.
  • Unexplained cough or sore throat. Though not all illnesses will be a sign of vaping, changes in your teen’s health, especially related to the upper respiratory system, can be a warning that needs to be addressed.
  • Unfamiliar objects around the house. Vape pens can take many different shapes, from ones that look like larger markers to smaller options that resemble USB flash drives, pens, and other everyday items. Most have a battery, a heating element, and a place to hold a liquid. Knowing what you’re looking for can help you identify e-cigarettes in your home.
  • Fruity or sweet smells. Vaping can be harder to identify than traditional tobacco smoking because of the lack of negative odors most associated with cigarettes and cigars. Many e-cigarettes smell like fruit flavors or popular sweet candies, so unfamiliar smells can be a warning sign that your teen is vaping.
  • New lingo in your teen’s vocabulary. E-cigarettes are known by many different names, so understanding what they are and listening for them can help you to identify if your teen is aware of or using these products. They are sometimes called “e-cigs,” “e-hookahs,” “mods,” “vape pens,” “vapes,” “JUULs,” “tank systems,” and “electronic nicotine delivery systems (ENDS).”

As with any drug and alcohol use, it’s important to begin conversations about these issues with your teens as early as possible. By encouraging open conversations about these topics, you can instill good habits and behaviors in your teens early on. In fact, teens of parents who talk to them about dangerous substances are 50% less likely to use drugs than those who do not receive this message at home.

Here are some tips to starting conversations with your teens about drug and alcohol use, including vaping. However you decide to talk with your teen about the dangers of e-cigarettes and vaping, make sure that it is an ongoing conversation. While it might be difficult to begin, the more you initiate an open and non-confrontational dialogue, the more likely your teen will be to engage with you on sensitive topics.

Learn more about the dangers and warning signs of vaping from the CDC.

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