COLORADO, USA — PAID CONTENT BY TRI-COUNTY HEALTH DEPARTMENT/303 TOBACCO
Conversations with kids about e-cigarettes, or vaping, can be difficult. Adults may struggle with uncertainty about the best way to approach the subject, and young people may be apprehensive about opening up. But engaging in these conversations has never been so important. A 2019 study from the Journal of the American Medical Association found that 27.5% of U.S. high schoolers self-reported e-cigarette use, a staggering increase from the 11.7% reported in 2017. As more kids are exposed to vaping, adults need to be ready to have these challenging conversations.
“As trusted adults, it’s important to be a resource and to direct youth to healthier options if they come to you with questions,” said Devan Lorimer of the Tri-County Health Department. Devan works with community partners to help educate adults about vaping, empowering them to have such discussions when the need arises. Based on his work in Colorado communities, he offered a few tips for adults looking to prepare for conversations about vaping.
- Get the facts. There are many different devices and terms surrounding vaping that are constantly changing. This can feel overwhelming if you aren’t close to it. “You don’t need to know everything,” said Devan. “The key is to learn enough so you feel comfortable in your trusted adult role.”
- Talk openly and often. Whether you’re a parent, teacher, coach, or another adult who frequently works with youth, take advantage of teachable moments to speak about vaping. “If you drive by someone who’s vaping, ask your child what they think about vaping. It doesn’t need to be a formal discussion to have an impact.”
- Listen and repeat back what the child says. It’s important that you don’t dominate the conversation and instead show that you’re actively listening and engaging. By repeating back what they say, you’ll make it clear that you’re hearing them.
- Set clear rules. Make sure that any youth you’re responsible for knows what they’re allowed to do in regards to vaping and what the consequences are if they break the rules. For example, a sports coach might tell the team that they aren’t allowed to bring tobacco products to practices or games. If a player is caught with a tobacco product, they’ll be benched for two games. “Setting these boundaries early prevents confusion later on, because kids know upfront what will happen if they make a certain decision.”
- Stay calm and avoid judging. This is vital especially if a young person opens up to you about them vaping. The goal is to ensure that the individual feels comfortable coming to you when they have questions or concerns. While you might be surprised to hear that they’re vaping and feel strong emotions about it, do your best to stay calm and make them feel that it was a safe decision to come to you. “Focus on the positives. Help them find better ways of coping with stress and gently steer them in a better direction.”
Tri-County Health Department’s tobaccofree303.org website has more resources for youth and parents regarding vaping, including ways to relieve stress without turning to tobacco products.
About the Tri-County Health Department
Tri-County Health Department serves over 1.5 million people in Adams, Arapahoe and Douglas Counties. It provides over 60 programs and services including birth certificates, immunizations, WIC, restaurant inspections, family planning, STI/HIV Testing, and infectious disease investigations. For more information, visit www.tchd.org, @TCHDHealth on Twitter, or @cotchd on Facebook.
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