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How to talk to your kids about vaping

Blog post | 21 Apr 2023

You may have noticed that everywhere you look these days, someone’s vaping.

Research shows that 1 in 5 people aged 18–24 years (non-smokers) have tried vapes. Nearly 80% of them say it’s easy to get a vape illegally at a shop or online.

Vapes, slang for e-cigarettes, are battery-operated devices designed to deliver vapourised liquids to the lungs when inhaled. The smoking of e-cigarettes is known as ‘vaping’.

Vapes are appealing to young people because they come in lots of flavours, such as blueberry, cola and bubble gum. They also come in different shapes and sizes and can be made to look like everyday items such as highlighters or pens.

Concerned that your child or teen may be susceptible to vaping? Read on for practical advice on how to start a conversation with your kids on the dangers of vaping without them running a mile away.

Start the conversation early

One of the most common reasons that young people try vaping is curiosity. Starting a conversation with your children as early as possible will mean they’re better prepared to make informed decisions if the opportunity to vape is presented to them.

Talk in a calm and relaxed environment

Keep the chat casual, relaxed and calm. This will ensure your kids feel comfortable enough to engage in the discussion with you. It may be helpful to chat while you’re doing an activity together or to use an everyday cue to prompt the conversation such a news story or seeing someone vaping on the street.

Be prepared to provide factual information

Many kids simply don’t know how harmful vaping is to their health. Ensure you’re ready to give your children and teens easy-to-understand facts on the dangers and health risks.

Here are a few facts on vaping that may be useful to share:

  • Nicotine, found in many Australian vapes, is a highly addictive poison. It can impact the development of your brain impacting memory, learning and attention.
  • The e-liquids used in vapes contain a range of dangerous chemicals, which are also found in nail polish remover, weed killer, cleaning products and bug spray. They can increase your risk of lung disease, cancer and heart disease.
  • Vapes can increase your risk of experiencing depression and anxiety.
  • Vaping can cause vomiting, nausea, coughing, shortness of breath, mouth irritation, lung injury and seizures.
  • Vapes are often labelled inaccurately or not at all. The label may state that the vape doesn’t contain nicotine and other chemicals, but it actually may.

You can also find helpful information and resources on vaping for parents and teens via the Lung Foundation Australia, Quit and Cancer Council Australia.

Avoid scare tactics, judging or lecturing

It’s important to avoid scare tactics, judging or lecturing your children on vaping. Instead, listen to their point of view. Allow them to ask questions and keep it a two-way conversation. For example, if your child or teen has tried vaping instead of getting angry at them or making them feel ashamed, ask them questions like: ‘what made you want to try?’ and ‘how did it make you feel?’.

Listen to Paul Dillon, the Director and founder of Drug and Alcohol Research and Training Australia, speak with Maggie Dent, the ABC’s parenting expert on what to do if your kid is vaping.

Discuss ways of saying ‘no’ with confidence

It can be helpful to talk through, and practise together, effective ways to respond if your children ever feel pressured to try vaping. It’s always useful to have a reason ready to deal with pressure from friends.

Here are some example responses you could share with them:

  • “Nah – nicotine gives me a headache”
  • “I don’t want to get hooked like a smoker”
  • “I’m focused on my health at the moment”
  • Make a joke, or simply say “no thanks” plainly and firmly

Be clear on family rules

It can be useful to create clear rules and expectations for your children on vaping for the home. For example — ‘no vaping devices are allowed in this house’ or ‘friends who visit shouldn’t vape in our home.’ It’s also important that you lead by example. Avoid participating in smoking or vaping habits that may contradict the rules you have in place for your own children.

How to quit vaping

If your child or teen is vaping, you can help them quit by seeking professional support.

Here are a few steps to get started:

  • Speak to your doctor.
  • Call the Quitline on 13 7848 — Quitline counsellors can answer any questions you or your child may have around quitting.
  • Build a 'quit plan'. Follow the steps to design a plan to quit.
  • Download the free My QuitBuddy app to goals and reminders around quitting.

For more information

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