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Nearly 1 in 4 teens have tried vaping — Here’s how parents can talk about it

WATCH: New concerns about vaping and young people

More Canadian adolescents are vaping — and health experts are concerned.

The prevalence of vaping has increased in Canada and the U.S. among 16- to 19-year-olds in the last two years, according to a new study published in the medical journal BMJ.

According to a recent Health Canada survey, nearly one in four students in grades 7 to 12 have tried electronic cigarettes, or e-cigarettes. What’s more, a 2017 study found that teenagers who use e-cigarettes are at risk of graduating to tobacco smoking.

Because more teens are vaping, it’s important parents talk to their kids about e-cigarettes. Here’s how to tackle the conversation.

READ MORE: Parents, vaping near children is just as dangerous as smoking — study

How to talk to your kids about vaping

First, educate yourself on what vaping is and how it can be harmful, said Julie Freedman Smith, a Calgary-based parenting expert and co-founder of Parenting Power. Sites like DrugFree.org and Health Canada have helpful resources.

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Most commonly, vaping is the inhaling of vapour from a battery-powered e-cigarette. These e-cigarettes can look like USB sticks, pens or cigarettes.

E-cigarettes produce an aerosol by heating a liquid that usually contains nicotine, flavourings and other chemicals, the U.S. Centres for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) says.

WATCH: Lung illness tied to vaping claims first life in U.S. — CDC

Lung illness tied to vaping claims first life in U.S.: CDC
Lung illness tied to vaping claims first life in U.S.: CDC

Like any serious conversation, timing is important when it comes to talking to your child about vaping. You don’t want to make them feel like they’re under attack; instead, you want to foster a productive conversation, Freedman Smith said.

“Plan what you are going to say and choose a time to have an open, honest discussion,” she explained.

“That means letting your teen know that this is what you want to discuss and choosing a time that works for both of you, rather than ambushing your child as they head out the door.”

READ MORE: Health Canada failing to address dangers of growing vaping ‘epidemic’ — cancer society

If you already know your kid is vaping, asking whether they are or not is inviting a lie, she added. Instead, tell them that you know they’re vaping because their teacher told you, for example, or you found their vape pen.

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Again, reacting the moment you find out is not the best solution.

“Ask your child to share what is happening for them regarding vaping: how they feel about it, the health and legal implications. Share the facts you have gathered and clearly express your expectations: ‘we don’t want you vaping because…,'” Freedman Smith said.

“Work with your child to determine how they will respond to friends asking them to vape with them. What wording can they use?”

WATCH: American dies after respiratory illness linked to vaping

American dies after respiratory illness linked to vaping
American dies after respiratory illness linked to vaping

Freedman Smith suggests parents offer reasons like, “It makes me feel sick,” “My parents will ground me” and “No thanks, it’s not for me.”

It’s also important to lead by example. Having a smoke-free and vape-free house teaches children that health comes first.

Health risks of vaping

Parents should be aware of the health risks of vaping so they can explain to their child why they’re concerned. It’s not enough to tell kids e-cigarettes are dangerous, Freedman Smith said. You need to tell kids how their health can be affected.

Most e-cigarettes contain nicotine, the CDC reports. Nicotine is addictive and harmful to people at any age but especially when it comes to youth.

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READ MORE: Health Canada advocates push for e-cigarette crackdown amid surge in teen vaping

The stimulant can harm the developing adolescent brain, affecting the parts that control attention, learning, mood and impulse control, the CDC noted. Research has found that there’s a “strong and robust” linkage between vaping and subsequent tobacco use.

Wait, There’s More: Vaping might be making people sick

There are several different vaping products on the market, and each contains a different set of chemicals, which is the first cause for concern, Jeremy Drehmer, a health researcher, previously told Global News.

“We’re really in an unknown kind of abyss,” Drehmer said.

“Studies have found that [e-cigarettes] have volatile organic compounds in them that are cancer-causing,” he added, but we don’t necessarily know how much of these compounds exists in each product.
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WATCH: EPS, nursing students warn kids about vaping

EPS, nursing students warn kids about vaping
EPS, nursing students warn kids about vaping

E-cigarettes also use aerosol — defined as particles dispersed in air or gas — which contains very small, ultra-fine particles.

“Much like tobacco smoke, these can get in and embed into the lungs, causing inflammation and all sorts of health problems,” Drehmer said.

Have ongoing conversations

Like with other substance use, parents need to have ongoing conversations with their children about vaping. These conversations can be informal but should happen on a regular basis, Freedman Smith said.

Freedman Smith suggests parents chat with kids over meals, during car rides or while out walking the dog.

READ MORE: Canadian health officials on alert after reports of vaping illnesses in the U.S.

“When you are with your kids, you can ask their thoughts: ‘Do any of your friends vape? Is it a popular thing in your peer group? What do you think about it? What have you heard about the health risks?'” Freedman Smith said.

“You could also call a family meeting… to discuss this specifically.”

It’s also important to reiterate that you care about your child’s health and you do not want them to vape. You should not assume your kid knows how you feel about it.

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“Explain it is illegal [for youth], and there are multiple known health risks and some still waiting to be discovered,” Freedman Smith said.
“[Say], ‘In our family, we look after our health.'”

— With a file from Meghan Collie

Laura.Hensley@globalnews.ca

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