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Talking To Kids About Smoking & Vaping

teen vaping feature

Talking to Teens about Smoking & Vaping

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, most people develop their nicotine addiction in adolescence. Teenage smoking can lead to a lifelong battle with nicotine addiction. If you are afraid a teen in your life has started smoking, you’re probably aware of the many negative effects of such behavior and would like help finding ways to prevent them from developing a lifelong habit.

It’s well noted in the research that people who start smoking in their teens:

Smoking and vaping are still quite common in the teenage years. In fact, 4.9% of teens in Texas smoke or vape.

Before you talk to your teen about smoking, let’s first double-check the signs to see if we’re on the right track. We all know how sensitive our teens can be, and, as parents, it’s best to be quite confident that an issue has arisen before approaching our teen on it as a defensive teen is one least likely to listen to reason. Knowing the signs and some of the bad effects of smoking or vaping can also help you in your conversation with your teen about reasons to quit.

Signs a Teenager Has Started Smoking

There are some traditional telltale signs that a teen has started smoking. These could include:

  • Teeth that are suddenly very yellow
  • Being edgy or irritated until they disappear for a few minutes
  • Having bad breath and possibly trying to cover it up with things like gum or breath mints
  • A consistent cough that won’t go away (This could also be a sign of illness, but in combination with other symptoms may suggest a teen is smoking.)
  • Shortness of breath or an inability to breathe deeply
  • Sudden weight loss
  • Complaints of new or worsening chest pain

However, cigarettes are no longer the most popular form of smoking. It is more likely that a teen will start vaping e-cigarettes as a way to smoke nicotine than it is that they will begin smoking cigarettes. Vaping still requires teens to inhale nicotine into their lungs, so some symptoms may be the same, but others may be different.

Symptoms of vaping may include:

  • Shortness of breath or an inability to breathe deeply
  • A new or unusual cough not caused by illness
  • New or worsening irritability that may go away after a short excuse to be on their own
  • Complaints about new or worsening chest pain
  • Sudden weight loss
  • Unexplained sweet fragrances (While cigarettes have a distinct and unpleasant smell, vapes come in a variety of different flavors, many of which are sweet or fruity.)

If you suspect a teen in your life has started smoking or vaping, it is important to handle the situation carefully. While your first reaction may be anger or frustration, it is unlikely that your teen will respond positively to those emotions. Teens generally don’t respond to negative effects.

Instead, the parent needs to understand why the teen started smoking in the first place. The parent needs to show understanding before expressing concerns. The parent should then discuss alternative ways the teen can achieve whatever their specific goal is for smoking/vaping.

Understanding the Difference Between Cigarettes and Vapes

E-cigarettes, commonly known as “vapes,” have been the most commonly used tobacco product since 2014. They were first introduced to the U.S. in 2006. Although they were originally marketed as a tool to help people quit smoking, they quickly became popular among teens and young adults. Instead of people using vapes to wean themselves off cigarettes, they began getting a whole new generation of people addicted to tobacco products.

Teens today are almost four times more likely to get nicotine via a vape than through a cigarette.

Vapes may be difficult to identify if you are not familiar with them. Some vapes, like the common Juul pod or other popular brands, look similar to a USB flash drive and can be charged via the USB port in a laptop or desktop computer.

Some look similar to pens or other everyday objects, but they have buttons for heating the nicotine liquid in the pod and have a small opening where the vapor is inhaled.

Vapes can be more difficult to identify than cigarettes because:

  • Teens often use a sweet or fruity-tasting vape juice, so it won’t make their breath smell bad the same way cigarettes do.
  • The electronic cigarette often looks like other everyday items, like a pen or USB port, or may simply be difficult to identify if you don’t know what you’re looking at.
  • Vapor does not typically stain teeth the way that traditional cigarettes do.

Despite not having all of the same warning signs as cigarettes, vapes are just as addictive, and a single pod (or cartridge containing vape juice) can hold as much nicotine or more than a pack of cigarettes.

teen vaping and smoking

How Does It Impact a Teen’s Lung Health and Development When They Smoke?

Smoking is very bad for the health and development of a teenager’s lungs. A person’s lungs are filled with tiny, living hairs that work to keep dirt and other debris out of a person’s lungs. Every time someone takes a hit from a cigarette or e-cigarette, some of those hairs die and are no longer able to protect the lungs. This makes it easier for the lungs to get damaged or infected by outside germs and debris. This is one of the things that causes many smokers to develop a chronic cough.

Research shows that smoking is particularly bad for teens because it can stunt lung development or, in other words, stop the lungs from growing before they are done. Teens who smoke inhale less air when breathing than teens who don’t. This can make breathing difficult, especially when a person is sick or doing athletic activities.

There is also evidence that people who started smoking as teenagers have lung problems earlier in life than those who did not smoke at that age. While lung function often does not start to get worse until sometime in your mid-40s or later, the U.S. Surgeon general found that people who started smoking as teens had lung function starting to decline when they were as young as their early 30s, according to the same Washington Post article linked above.

The health problems brought on by teenage smoking do not go away. They will remain with a person for the rest of their life and can impact their health years or even decades later.

How Common Is Tobacco Use Among Youths?

Tobacco use among American youths is slowly going down, but is still a real problem:

  • In 2020, 6.7% of middle schoolers in the U.S. reported using some type of tobacco product in the last 30 days.
  • In 2020, 23.6% of high schoolers in the U.S. reported using some type of tobacco product in the last 30 days.
  • In Texas alone, 7,700 minors will become daily smokers in 2021.

Stats to know about E-cigarettes and youth:

  • E-cigarettes have been the most commonly used tobacco products among American youth since 2014.
  • Vaping among teens was steadily on the rise from 2017 to 2019.
    • However, the smoking of e-cigs went down slightly among the same age group from 2019 to 2020.
  • In 2020, 4.7% of middle schoolers in the U.S. reported smoking a vape in the last 30 days.
  • In 2020, 19.7% of high schoolers in the U.S. reported smoking a vape in the last 30 days.
  • As of 2021, 18.7% of Texas high school students use e-cigarettes.

Comparatively, cigarette smoking among youth is lower:

  • Between 2011 and 2020, cigarette smoking went down among both middle schoolers and high schoolers in the U.S..
  • In 2020, 1.5% of middle schoolers in the U.S. reported smoking a cigarette in the last 30 days.
  • In 2020, 4.6% of high schoolers in the U.S. reported smoking a cigarette in the last 30 days.
  • As of 2021, Texas is fairly close to the national average with 4.9% of high school students smoking some kind of tobacco product. That is roughly 81,400 students.

Cigar smoking is slightly more common among adolescents than cigarette smoking:

  • In 2020, 1.5% of middle schoolers in the U.S. reported smoking a cigar in the last 30 days.
  • In 2020, 5% of high schoolers in the U.S. reported smoking a cigar in the last 30 days
  • Both of those statistics are down from 3.5% and 11.6% in 2011, respectively.
  • In 2021, 6% of male high school students in Texas smoke cigars, but the rate among female high school students is very low.

It is also common for teens to use more than one tobacco product:

  • In 2020, 2.8% of middle schoolers in the U.S. reported consuming more than one tobacco product in the last 30 days.
  • In 2020, 8.2% of high schoolers in the U.S. reported consuming more than one tobacco product in the last 30 days.
  • People who use more than one tobacco product in their adolescence are at the highest risk of developing a long-term nicotine addiction that lasts beyond their youth, with the potential for lifelong addiction.

When talking to your teenager about smoking or vaping, it is important to do so gently. It is important to consider the situation from your teen’s point of view.

It is important to remain calm and discuss why they started smoking, in case there is a deeper issue. Be sure to know the facts and discuss the long-term harm a teen does to their physical health when they start smoking.

Treatment at SUN Behavioral Houston

If you believe your child or a teenager in your life is suffering from a nicotine addiction, they may benefit from child therapy sessions with a child psychologist here at SUN Behavioral Houston. Teenage addiction often is not a stand-alone issue. There are sometimes other factors at play, including behavioral and mental health issues like attention-deficit hyperactive disorder (ADHD), post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), anxiety, depression, or other issues. Smoking or vaping is sometimes used as a way to self-medicate these underlying issues. After a psychological screen, you may find out that smoking or vaping are symptoms rather than the core issue.

We have three different levels of treatment a teen in your life may benefit from, depending on the severity of the things they are struggling with.

Inpatient Teen Therapy Program

This is our most intensive level of care. Our inpatient teen program is typically reserved for teens who may be a danger to themselves or others and need 24/7 care.
This treatment program typically includes:

  • Medical and clinical assessments
  • Group and individual sessions focused on current issues, cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT), healing, and moving forward
  • A treatment plan and a team consisting of psychiatric and medical specialists and therapists

Adolescent Partial Hospitalization Program (PHP)

PHP is typically used for teens transitioning out of our inpatient program, but it also may be a good fit for teens who are trying to prevent their behavioral issues from getting bad enough to require hospitalization.

PHP includes treatment options such as:

  • Attendance of five groups per day, five days a week
  • Focus on CBT, coping skills training, and WRAP (Wellness Recovery Action Plan), an evidence-based system to help people attain the highest level of wellness or relapse prevention
  • A team of psychiatrists providing comprehensive medication management

Intensive Outpatient Program (IOP)

Our teen IOP is intended for those who are coming out of PHP. It is also appropriate for teens with less severe problems who would still benefit from more intensive therapeutic intervention than just seeing a therapist once a week.

SUN Behavioral Health’s teen IOP typically includes:

  • Attendance of three groups per day, three days a week
  • A daily process group (to work through current issues), CBT, and the daily WRAP, or relapse prevention, group

Key components of IOP treatment include:

  • Psychiatrists
  • CBT/motivational interviewing
  • Support groups (including 12-step groups)
  • Stress management and life skills development
  • Family therapy
  • Aftercare planning for continued recovery/relapse prevention

Get Treatment Today at SUN Behavioral Houston

Trying to quit smoking on one’s own can feel next to impossible, especially with all the pressures of teenage life. If a teen in your life is struggling with nicotine addiction, get them the help they need. Reach out to SUN Behavioral today at (713) 796-2273.

713-796-2273

FAQs:

What happens if a teenager smokes?

Smoking as a teenager makes one more likely to develop a lifelong nicotine addiction. It also has the potential to stop lung development early, meaning one’s lungs will never be as strong, large, or healthy as they would have been without smoking.

What are the causes of teenage smoking?

Many things contribute to a teen’s decision to start smoking. For example:

  • Teens are more likely to smoke if they see their peers doing it.
  • They are also more likely to smoke if they regularly see smoking positively portrayed in the media they consume.
  • Teens who see their parents or other adults in their life smoke are more likely to begin smoking themselves.
  • Teens who have access to tobacco products, like finding it around the house or having someone they trust to buy it for them, are also more likely to start smoking than their peers who don’t have those same opportunities.
  • There is also a relationship between teens beginning tobacco use and their self-esteem and mental health.

Is it normal for a 15-year-old to smoke?

As of 2019, it is illegal to smoke tobacco or nicotine-based products before one turns 18. It is also extremely dangerous for the lungs and can damage them while they’re still developing, leaving them stunted or unable to grow to their full size, which, in turn, leads to more health problems later in life.

Is it OK to smoke at 14?

As of 2019, it is illegal to smoke tobacco or nicotine-based products before one turns 18. It is also extremely dangerous for your lungs and can damage them while they are still developing, leaving them stunted or unable to grow to their full size, leading to more health problems later in life.

Get Help Today!

713-796-2273
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