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Electronic cigarettes displayed at window of a vape shop.

Talking with Teens about Vaping

Author: CHKD Medical Group, Dr. Danielle Lecky-Chaudhuri
Published Date: Monday, November 23, 2020

By Dr. Danielle Lecky-Chaudhuri, Pediatric Partners of Hampton Roads

Young people may think their age protects them from getting COVID-19, but a recent study shows that those who vape or smoke may be at higher risk of COVID-19 than their peers who do not vape.

The study by researchers at the Stanford University School of Medicine published in the Journal of Adolescent Health in August found that teens and young adults were five to seven times as likely to experience COVID-19 symptoms, such as coughing, fever, tiredness and difficulty breathing, as those who never smoked or vaped.

The study included 4,351 survey participants ages 13 to 24 in all 50 states.

Vaping has been associated with other health risks, such as nicotine addiction, so it’s important that parents talk to their adolescents about the dangers of vaping.

Here are some tips from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention Office on Smoking and Health.

Major points to keep in mind before you start a conversation.

  • Before you start, get credible information about vaping and young people from E-cigarettes.SurgeonGeneral.gov.
  • Avoid criticism.
  • Encourage an open dialogue.
  • Aim to have a conversation, rather than deliver a lecture.
  • It’s OK to have your conversation take place over time, in bits and pieces.
  • Set a positive example by being tobacco-free.
  • For free help, visit smokefree.gov or call 1-800-QUIT-NOW.

Questions teens might ask.

Q. Why don’t you want me to use e-cigarettes?

A. Science shows that e-cigarettes contain ingredients that are addictive and could harm different parts of your body.

Right now, your brain is still developing, which means you are more vulnerable to addiction. Many e-cigarettes contain nicotine, and using nicotine can change your brain to make you crave more nicotine. It can also affect your memory and concentration.

E-cigarettes contain chemicals that are harmful. When people use e-cigarettes, they breathe in tiny particles that can harm their lungs.

The cloud that people exhale from e-cigarettes can expose you to chemicals that are not safe to breathe.

Q. What’s the big deal about nicotine?

A. Your brain is still developing until about age 25. The Surgeon General reported that nicotine is

addictive and can harm your brain development.

Using nicotine at your age may make it harder for you to concentrate, learn, or control your impulses.

Nicotine can even train your brain to be more easily addicted to other drugs like meth and cocaine.

I don’t say this to scare you, but I want you to have the facts because nothing is more important to me than your health and safety.

Q. Aren’t e-cigarettes safer than regular cigarettes?

A. Because your brain is still developing, scientific studies show that it isn’t safe for you to use any tobacco product that contains nicotine, including e-cigarettes.

Whether you get nicotine from an e-cigarette or a cigarette, it’s still risky.

Some e-cigarette batteries have even exploded and hurt people.

Q. I thought e-cigarettes didn’t have nicotine – just water and flavoring?

A. I used to think that too. But many e-cigarettes have nicotine. There are also other chemicals in them that can be harmful.

Let’s look at the Surgeon General’s website on e-cigarettes (E-cigarettes.SurgeonGeneral.gov) together so you can see for yourself.

Q. I (or my friends) have tried e-cigarettes and it was no big deal.

A. I appreciate your honesty. In the future, I hope you (or your friends) will stay away from e-cigarettes and other tobacco products, including cigarettes. Science shows that e-cigarettes contain ingredients that are addictive and could harm different parts of your body.

Next time we go to the doctor, let’s ask about the risks of nicotine, e-cigarettes, and other tobacco products.

Q. You used tobacco, so why shouldn’t I?

A. If I could live my life over again, I never would have started smoking. I learned that people who smoke cigarettes are much more likely to develop, and die from, certain diseases than people who don’t smoke. This was really scary, so I quit smoking.

Quitting was really hard, and I don’t want you to go through that. The best thing is to not start at all.

Sample text messages.

  • You always liked science. Check out the science about e-cigarettes and young people: E-cigarettes.SurgeonGeneral.gov
  • Getting off nicotine is hard but I’m so happy I quit. Don’t make that mistake and get addicted. Smoking and tobacco use, including using e-cigarettes, are unsafe for young people.
  • Most teenagers don’t use e-cigarettes. E-cigarettes with nicotine can mess with your brain, and your brain is still developing until you are at least 25.
  • You might be tempted by e-cigarette flavors, but inhaling certain flavorings that have been found in some e-cigarettes can be harmful.
  • Just learned that many e-cigarettes have nicotine in them. That’s the drug that makes cigarettes so addictive. Nicotine can also mess with your brain development.
  • Just saw a report from the Surgeon General that e-cigarettes can mess with how your brain develops and might even affect your mood and focus. Please don’t use any products that contain nicotine.
  • Hope none of your friends use e-cigarettes around you. Even breathing the cloud they exhale can expose you to nicotine and chemicals that can be dangerous to your health.


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About CHKD Medical Group

Children’s Hospital of The King’s Daughters has been the region’s most trusted name in pediatric care for more than 50 years. As members of CHKD Health System, our pediatricians work closely with CHKD’s full range of pediatric specialists and surgeons. They also share a commitment to quality, excellence and child-centered care. With 18 practices in 29 locations throughout the region, a CHKD pediatrician is never far.