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January 24, 2023

Ask Lisa Podcast - Episode 103

How Do I Talk My Teen Out of Vaping?

Episode 103

Vaping has become a growing concern for many parents of tweens and teens. What can adults do to steer kids clear of it, and what should we do to help kids who find themselves hooked on nicotine? Dr. Lisa discusses research-based strategies that can keep kids from experimenting with vaping or help them stop once they’ve started. Reena asks for advice on helping kids deal with peer pressure around vaping.

January 24, 2023 | 30 min

Transcript | How Do I Talk My Teen Out of Vaping?

Ask Lisa Podcast, Ep. 103: How Do I Talk My Teen Out of Vaping?

The Ask Lisa Podcast does not constitute medical advice and is not a substitute for professional mental health advice, diagnosis or treatment. If you have concerns about your child’s well-being, consult a physician or mental health professional.

The following transcript has been automatically generated by an AI system and should be used for informational purposes only. We cannot guarantee the accuracy, completeness, or timeliness of the information provided.

——

Reena Ninan
We talk a lot about drug use alcohol use. And then there’s vaping. And we decided to sort of dig right into this after we got this letter. And it says Dear Dr. Damour, I’ve been an avid follower and listener to your podcast and truly appreciate everything you share. My almost 13 year old daughter recently started vaping with some of her friends. We talked to her the first time we found out about the dangers of vaping. And she promised not to do it again. But she did. What’s your advice here? vaping is everywhere around her school friends. Even her soccer team, we’ve suggested things that she could say when someone offers it to her, but I don’t think that’s working. She’s easily influenced by her peers. Thank you for any advice. And thank you for all that you do. You know, you brought this up? And we saw this in our inbox like we should do an episode on vaping. Like really?

Lisa Damour
Is this a big deal? Is it it is a big deal? It is a big deal. It is surprisingly common. We have data showing that lots of teens and tweens vape. And one of the things that’s especially concerning is that you see it in middle school, right? I mean, we don’t want to see it at any age. But 13 is usually eighth grade. And we are seeing that there are significant percentages of tweens and also teens who try vaping and then a significant percent who become addicted to nicotine and keep vaping

Reena Ninan
so why do you think you’re seeing this uptick in middle schoolers doing?

Lisa Damour
Well, there’s so many forces at play. And this is anger. vaping has a very long and complex even legal history. But you know, of course, just to put it in context, vaping was originally developed as an alternative to smoking for people who were addicted to nicotine. So there was actually and there remains for some people, there’s a good use of vaping because what we know is on balance, if you were smoking cigarettes, and you convert from smoking cigarettes to smoking, vape pen using, you know, getting nicotine that way, it’s less bad for your health, you know, you don’t have all of the combustible stuff that you’re inhaling when you’re smoking tobacco. So that’s where vaping started. But what happened and this is really shady, is that the companies who are making vapes realized that if we make these in fruity flavors, if we give them you know, kind of cool packaging, we can actually get an entire generation of people who’ve never been anywhere near cigarettes to take an interest in these to try these and then won’t like to become addicted to these

Reena Ninan
and it’s working right. It’s totally working. Anyone who mines me Lisa it was when I was in the Middle East as a correspondent hookah pipes, you know, they’re just our de la they’re they’re like just different scented flavored tobacco, and it’s it just feels better than a cigarette.

Lisa Damour
It does. And so imagine being right, a sixth grader or seventh grader and this thing is bubblegum flavored or mango flavored or German chocolate cake flavored. It has this element of safety, it has this element of being okay. It may even be like, you know, fun tastes good, right? I mean, there may be sort of like a sort of a joy in that. And then of course, nicotine feels good. Nicotine is a drug that gives people this sort of combined sense of like, both energized and calmed at the same time. And then you put it in a really cool packaging. And then there was for, you know, a long time and kids are still doing this ways to kind of customize the packaging to make it kind of, you know, your style. This is really, you know, dangerous because it they really figured out in the marketing how to make this incredibly appealing to young, young adolescents.

Reena Ninan
I know vaping was on the rise pre pandemic, but do you think the pandemic affected even more like more more people jumped on that bandwagon? Can you tell?

Lisa Damour
We can’t really tell? It’s a great question. So when we look at the data, for at first, we thought we saw a pretty significant drop off. And, you know, when people were interpreting those data, they were saying, Well, you know, it’s interesting, because a lot of kids who were vaping, at school, they’re now trapped at home, so they can’t, you know, vape as much they can’t get away with in the same old ways. So maybe that is accounting for the drop off. And there was actually I think, a kind of a moment of hopefulness like, okay, in all of the terribleness of the pandemic, at least, it’s like, put a dent in kids vaping. Now, people are saying it, maybe because we were collecting the data differently, we’re not actually clear. But what we do know is vaping is back, you know, kids are back together, kids are going to school, they are vaping. And one thing just to make a distinction, because if you’re new to this world, that it’s a complex and weird world. There’s vaping, where kids are just using vape pens that have only nicotine. And then there’s vaping, where kids are consuming marijuana that way. And often they’ll Yeah, can put people off and vape pen. Absolutely, they’ll refer them as DAB pens or things like that. So it’s they’re getting marijuana that way. Okay. And so, you know, these are two different things. And we did a terrific, I thought it was really helpful. I hope it was helpful episode on, you know, kids and a kid who wouldn’t stop smoking weed. And who was using a dab pen? I think, you know, from what I recall in that episode. So that’s separate. That’s marijuana. Today, we’re just thinking about 13 year olds and mango flavored nicotine. Right? And that is its own problem.

Reena Ninan
Yeah. So how do you for a parent who in like, in this letter stumbled across and discovers, oh, my gosh, my child is doing this? How do you get them to stop? Like, what really works?

Lisa Damour
Okay, so there’s a few things. One is we want to talk with them about the health concerns,

Reena Ninan
and really works health wise to like, say to them, that’ll wake them up and get them to pay attention?

Lisa Damour
Well, it’s hard, right? Because part of what we’re up against when we’re talking with kids about health concerns is, it all feels very far away, and they’re not seeing the immediate impact. And they’re seeing kids who vape a lot more than they are who do not seem to be, you know, bursting into flames. And so when we’re like, there’s all concern, it’s important for us to articulate it, but I don’t think we should assume that that’s going to be the thing that gets a kid to knock it off. The health concerns that we are aware of from vaping, there’s a range of them. One is, when we are when anybody is vaping, they’re getting particles into their lungs, like there are particles that are coming off of the mechanics of the vape device that are going into their lungs, you don’t really want particles in your lungs, right? You really like you don’t want to do that. So there’s that. There’s also concerns about what it means to combust the chemicals that make for the flavors that make for the different, you know, delicious and delightful marketing, you know, stuff that they do to get kids to want to use vaping that you’re combusting that that there’s formaldehyde involved involved. So the way to talk with kids about that is, you know, inhaling things, inhaling things that have chemical properties, and actually, like, you know, are coming off of a device, those are going into your lungs, you only have one set of lungs for the rest of your life, you do not want to mess with your lungs. And sometimes when I’ve talked with teenagers about it, I’m like, you know, when we go outside, you don’t see a pipe of a car and be like, I’m gonna go breathe right next to it. Like you have an instinctive awareness that like, it’s not great to breathe in particles with vaping. Even if it’s meant good flavor, you’re breathing in a whole bunch of particles that are foreign to your body. Yeah.

Reena Ninan
That’s a good point. Lisa, I we were also sort of talking a little about the harms of vaping. Like what is the wake up call that you have found over your years of working, that gets kids to be like, Oh, maybe this isn’t really good for me.

Lisa Damour
Okay, so that you got two other things you can do besides mentioning the medical physical impact of the, you know, inhaling stuff that is foreign to your body, there’s a couple other things you can try. One is you can talk about the fact that nicotine is highly addictive. And the other problem with vape and vape devices is it’s a lot nicotine, these are heavily concentrated doses of nicotine. And nicotine is a very, very powerful drug that once you are addicted to it, it is very hard to shake. And so especially with teenagers, and especially with young teenagers, really talking with them about autonomy, right, that’s what they are organized around, they want to be independent, they don’t want to be owned by anyone or anything. So one thing that can help is to say, look, nicotine is going to own you. If you keep using vape devices, and you keep ingesting nicotine in this way, you’re gonna get to the point where you’re going to need it to feel good. And then you’re not going to be in charge anymore. The nicotine is going to be in charge, it’s going to be telling you when you’re supposed to stop and use it is going to be making you organize your day around making sure you can have access to it. You don’t like anyone telling you what to do you don’t like us telling you what to do. Do you really want to put yourself at the mercy of a substance? Oh,

Reena Ninan
that’s good. That must work. Do you find that work? It doesn’t I’m

Lisa Damour
getting it can it? Can I want to give people everything I got. So I think that’s the place to start. Right? It’s just to say it’s so I don’t wanna say nap. But I do want to be I don’t want to say like, yes, this will magically solve it. Yeah. Okay, here’s my favorite thing to talk about, with young people. And especially, I mean, sixth, seventh, and eighth graders, but even ninth 10th They are. And this is why I love teenagers, they are cynics. They are suspicious of adults, and they don’t like to be played. Right. This is one of the things you know to be true about teenagers. And we have really cool research that shows that if you pull back the veil with teenagers, and show them how they are being manipulated by marketing, they become more resistant to that marketing.

Reena Ninan
Interesting. Exposing the manipulation gets to occur.

Lisa Damour
Absolutely So one of the My Favorite conversations I ever had with a pack of seventh graders, I was like, Okay, we worry about vaping as adults because we worry about the health impact on you, you know, and you can run down all of the, you know, the addiction and, you know, gestion of particles and combustible formaldehyde and all of that stuff. And then say but here’s the thing, we also worry because you are being manipulated by large corporations. And I actually it was so much fun. I had this conversation with a bunch of seventh graders. I’m like, if you imagine that you are at that time, Joule was the big device, ju UL, which has now went into all sorts of trouble with the FDA, you know, and has been severely regulated because they were selling flavors to kids like the FDA has worked to actually shut that down. There’s still plenty of flavored stuff available to kids. But you know, so I said to them at the time, if you were an executive at Joule, and you were thinking, I would like to get an entire generation of 12 to 13 year olds interested in my product. How would you design it? And you could just see their wheels turning and they were like, you would give it yummy flavors you would give it fancy packaging. They said things I never would have thought of you would make it easily hateable for adults. Right. And then one of them said, This is so fascinating to hear about how their minds work. One of them said you would make it seem good for the environment by having a be electronic. I was not I was I like that never crossed my mind. Holy House Shara. Yeah and like this way and they basically were able to fully rundown that all of the features of this device that was being pushed their way was in fact exactly designed to appeal to a 12 to 13 to 14 year old market. And they were appalled. They were absolutely appalled. And so anything that we can do on the adult outside, to make it clear, like you’re being played, these people have figured out how to put a highly addictive substance into a package that really is not for grownups. Right. I mean, like, it’s not really designed. I mean the for, for it’s really for teens. Yeah. And they’re doing it to make money off of getting you addicted, right? Do not in any way soft pedal this like it make a really clear like, this was diabolical, it is very deliberate, they know what they’re doing that kind of horror that you want to inspire in a teenager of like, oh, my gosh, we’re being played by major corporations, we’re being played by these groups that are, you know, preying on us by, you know, packaging things just for us that happened to be addictive. That can actually be a pretty powerful way of getting kids to be resistant.

Reena Ninan
Wow. So I want to ask and sort of unpack the peer pressure component of this, right. The in this letter, the parent is saying, you know, we’ve suggested things that you can say, when someone offers you, a vape pen essentially, like what, how do you get them to stand up for themselves in these moments where we all know, we’ve been there, it’s so easy to go with the flow, and you don’t want to be the oddball out, then you don’t want to deal with isolation from not wanting to do what everyone else is doing.

Lisa Damour
It’s true. And I’ll add even Rena a layer to the peer pressure thing that I’m hearing post pandemic, which is, you know, the pandemic really messed with kids friendships, it really messed with kids sense of security in their social groups. And so I am hearing from more and more teens, that if they are with a crew that is doing stuff that they don’t love, you know, so it may be vaping, or things worse than vaping. or more, you know, worse, meaning like more harmful even than vaping, that they will feel very much on the horns of a dilemma of, do I just do this thing, whatever the cost, maybe to me physically, because I don’t really want to blow up my friendships. And at this point, these friendships feel so precious or so fragile or so newly formed, that I’m not in a position to, you know, like, you can easily see you picture yourself at 14, like, am I going to say no to vaping? Which, like, whatever, you know, doesn’t seem that big a deal? Or am I going to actually blow up my friendships, right? So I don’t think we want to be very casual about what we’re asking of kids, when we’re saying like, I get it, that your friends are doing it, but we don’t want you doing it. Like there’s a huge amount at stake. And even a very thoughtful and reflective, non impulsive, 1314 15 year old might have a very hard time making a big issue of something, if it might harm their friendships, is there anything

Reena Ninan
we could offer them to say like words something that you found, makes a difference allows them not to do it, but also not be isolated?

Lisa Damour
You know, I think I love that this parent has tried, like, you know, come up with phrases and ideas. And I think that that absolutely falls within the you know, kind of guidance, we generally give that it’s good to go in with a plan, you don’t want to show up in a peer pressure situation, not having thought through how you’re going to get yourself out of it. Like we have tons of research showing that it’s the right thing to do. What we’re also hearing this letter is that isn’t working, that isn’t working. And it was a great first try. And it doesn’t mean it will never work. But I think then the next thing I would encourage this parent to do is to just really open up that conversation about the dilemma their child may be in, right? Rather than coming at it as like you’re gonna stop vaping and we’re gonna make it happen. And we’re gonna give you all the advice we can think of come at it from the side of saying to the kid, this is so hard, right? These are kids you like, these are kids you’re hanging out with this is your main friendship group. It’s not like you have like 14 Other friendship groups that you could just switch to easily like no kid does. And these are kids, you know, that we like, as parents, like we often enjoy having them over, we often see what your good time you’re having. But this has got to be so tricky, because the same kids are encouraging you to do something that you know and we know isn’t good for you. Right? It could get you a doctor couldn’t get particles into your lungs, you know? And also like, you don’t really know what’s even in these things. I mean, that’s the other thing is not like the especially the flavored vapes that kids are accessing right now these are all coming out of unregulated sources, right so there are occasional horror stories of kids vaping stuff that is not even nicotine and much more scary. And so what I would say is as the parent in this moment, sit empathically with your kid in the dilemma they have right the kids I like and want to hang out with and I’m not going to build these friendships are asking me to do something that is not Good for me and then could have downstream consequences that are very real, like getting hooked on nicotine and having, you know, impact on my lungs. What is beautiful is if we lovingly sit with a kid in the conflict that they have, right, this is a conflict that kid has. I think that opens up the possibility of the kid coming up with solutions to get themselves out of that conflict. I think as soon as we roll up, as you know, like, the conflict is your friends are asking you to do stuff we don’t want you to do, you need to tell them to stop. Now the conflict is between us and our kid, right? The kids like you don’t get it, it’s fine. It’s not a big deal. And now we’re having that conflict parents already tried, it isn’t working, switch gears move into kiddo, you have quite a conflict on your hands. And I love you. And I have empathy for this conflict. And I’m really curious to see how you’re gonna solve this one.

Reena Ninan
Wow, that’s good advice to just sort of getting them on that road. Before we wrap up, I want to ask you that, what if your kid is hooked on nicotine? What do you find really helps?

Lisa Damour
This is huge, right? I mean, I think Did you? I mean, do you notice? Did you smoke cigarettes ever growing up? Like it was not something I did, because

Reena Ninan
I was the 80s Nancy Reagan just say no to drugs and everything else? And it just wasn’t appealing to me.

Lisa Damour
Yeah. Oh, and you know, cigarettes really died down quite a bit like they had their moment in the 70s. And then, you know, among adolescents, like, it was not really and interestingly, the only kids were doing it were often not white adolescents, like for other for teenagers of various racial and ethnic groups, even at lower rates. But cigarettes were not that big a thing. But what we know if you talk to someone who got addicted to nicotine, right, and or like nicotine is no joke. It is very demanding. It really wants to be satisfied as an addiction. And you will hear people who you know, were like, smoked 20 years ago, gave it up. And they’ll say, Oh, if I thought the world were ending tomorrow, I would totally smoke a cigarette. Like they have an ongoing, you know, kind of nagging wish to use nicotine. So one of the things I’ve seen be very, very tricky for families, is when they discover that their kid is vaping, and they want their kid to stop, but their kid is actually now dealing with a real nicotine addiction. And stopping means a nicotine withdrawal. So what I would say is, if this is your kid, don’t make it worse by shaming them and making them feel bad, right? I mean, it you know, nicotine is powerful, these devices, fool a lot of kids into thinking something is safe or harmless when it’s not. So I would very much have a conversation and say like, do you think you’re addicted to nicotine? Do you think even if you want it to stop, it would be hard? And do it in that way? Not in a shaming or unkind way? And if that’s a possibility, I would actually get your pediatrician involved, you know, how do we help my kid work their way off of nicotine. There also our wonderful public strategies that have become available, there’s a online app called this as quitting. That is about getting over nicotine addiction, it’s basically support for getting past nicotine addiction. So as if you are a parent, I will put some of these in the show notes. If you are a parent where you’re like, Yeah, you know, that horse is out of the barn, my kid is already addicted to nicotine and vaping is a problem in that way, then I would just treat it like we would treat any other substance abuse problem or any other addiction problem, which is with a lot of love, and a lot of awareness that getting past these things, and over these things, is really, really hard. And people are much more likely to do it if they’ve got loving and understanding support around them, and all sorts of resources to help make it happen. But just lay down your judgment, lay down your frustration and your sadness that your kid has found themselves in this spot and switch into that gear of I am here to help you not be at the mercy of nicotine.

Reena Ninan
Wow. So So what are we hearing from you vaping. First off is pretty common, a lot of kids are into it. So don’t feel weird that your kid is sort of in this group. And explaining the manipulation that goes on and getting kids to vape by these companies can really resonate to them. And then when you talk to them, especially if they’re addicted, don’t isolate them because it’ll take them in the totally wrong direction.

Lisa Damour
Absolutely. And the other thing I would add Reena, just by way of being realistic about where parents are in this with kids vaping is very easy to hide. You know, one of the upsides I guess of cigarettes is you can smell them. You can smell them, about you, right? You can smell a person’s done on somewhere else, you can smell them on the person, right like you’re very aware of it was vaping it’s very, very easy for kids to be sneaky with vaping right that the you know there’s minimal smell it doesn’t stick with them. The devices are very tiny. You know it can it’s not some The kind of thing that a parent can be like, Well, I’m just gonna stop you by catching you all the time. Like, that doesn’t work anymore for vaping. And one of the things that I think can be very, very powerful for parents is for them to acknowledge the limits of their power, right to say, if you want to vape, I cannot stop you. Right? That’s a it’s an incredible thing to say to a teenager. And you can actually say that about a lot of things. If you want to drink at parties, I cannot stop you. Yeah. But here’s why I don’t want you to do it. I love you, I want you to be safe, I want you to be healthy for the rest of your life, I don’t want you at the mercy of a substance. So I’m going to count on you to make choices that are going to be good for you. Not because I’m going to catch you if you don’t want but because you care about yourself. But an important part of this is I think, acknowledging, we can always be in charge, even when we want to win even when the kids doing dumb things we don’t want them to do.

Reena Ninan
It’s the hardest thing to keep in mind that you’re right. You’re so right. So what do you have for Lisa for parenting to go?

Lisa Damour
I think the takeaway from me on a topic like vaping, is that it’s so easy to be horrified, right? Like, what are these kids doing there and soundly to grade? What do they smoke and stuff for what’s wrong with them? And how, as much as that may be our instinct as adults, talking to kids in that way, is only going to create a tremendous distance between us and them, and is probably not going to get them to see it our way. So I think the challenge and the parenting juggling this is when you are most horrified and turned off by what a kid is doing is probably the moment when you have to work the hardest to see it their way. And if you can see it their way and see why they may be tempted and see why they may be having a hard time saying no. The chances of you having a successful conversation where you get them to make better choices go play.

Reena Ninan
Wow. So taking that moment to sort of see it from their vantage point can be transformative.

Lisa Damour
necessary, deeply necessary.

Reena Ninan
This is great, Lisa and next week we talk about how to support a child who opens up about being gay. I’ll see you next week.

Lisa Damour
I’ll see you next week.

The advice provided by Dr. Damour here will not and does not constitute - or serve as a substitute for - professional psychological treatment, therapy, or other types of professional advice or intervention. If you have concerns about your child’s well-being, consult a physician or mental health professional.

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