Vaping and Teenagers – Should I Be Concerned?
The number of adolescents smoking cigarettes is decreasing, which is largely due to an increased awareness of the dangers of smoking. However, vaping is another unhealthy habit that seems to be gaining more and more popularity these days.
While this recent trend carries fewer risks than smoking tobacco, it has also been linked to various health problems and is especially harmful to teenagers who are more prone to nicotine addiction and whose brains are still developing. If you are worried that your child smokes e-cigarettes, the first step is understanding more about the potential risks and then opening a dialogue.
The Risks of Vaping
E-cigarettes are electronic devices that produce an aerosol by heating up a liquid containing nicotine, flavourings and other chemicals. Due to their discreet appearance which resembles a pen, non-lingering smell and how easy it is to buy them online, a lot of parents might be unaware of their children’s new habit.
The use of e-cigarettes among teenagers is harmful for a few reasons. Firstly, e-cigarettes are not that well-regulated yet; until recently some contained diacetyl, a harmful additive linked to lung disease. The heat might be also used to vaporise other substances such as cannabis oil, which produces a stronger effect than when smoking marijuana. Secondly, our brains are not fully developed until we are 25 years old and prolonged nicotine use in adolescence can result in reduced attention span, increased impulsivity and anxiety. 
Nicotine is also linked to various health issues such as heart problems and lung damage. Thirdly, vaping can be addictive. The more frequently your child smokes e-cigarettes, the more dependent on vaping they might become.
Is it The Beginning of Vaping Epidemic?
Even though the increasing popularity of vaping causes concern, particularly in Northern areas of England, statistics show that it is mostly adults who turn to e-cigarettes or those teenagers who are already smokers. Another good news is that according to data from ASH YouGov Smokefree survey, many young people believe that e-cigarettes are as harmful as cigarettes so they are less likely to see vaping as an alternative to smoking. So far, the regular use of e-cigarettes among teenagers remains low with 11.2% of 11 to 17 years olds having had a go at vaping. 
Why do Teenagers Smoke E-Cigarettes
Most commonly, trying cigarettes is about satisfying curiosity, especially since people who are underage cannot legally smoke them. The main reasons listed by the Gov website include to “give it a try”, “for fun/I like it” and “liking the flavours”. Another important factor that might influence a teenager to vape and make them emotionally dependent on it is stress relief. A 2021 study that looked at vaping among 15 to 17 years olds found that most begin to vape to deal with stressors and concluded that schools should focus on implementing interventions that can help improve pupils’ mental health.  However, schools cannot always provide your child with individual care, which is why it is important for you to watch out for the warning signs and raise any concerns you might have.
How to Talk to Your Child About Vaping
If you are worried that your child might already be a vaper or become one in the future, it is important to include vaping in a conversation just like you would talk about the dangers of drugs or alcohol. However, since vaping is often branded as a smoking alternative and might appear harmless due to its colourful packaging and fruity flavours, you might not know where to start without sounding overprotective. Here are a few tips that can help you:
1. Find the right time to talk
Avoid starting the conversation when you are upset. If you know that your child is already a vaper, make it clear that you do not approve of their habit but try not to use accusatory language. If you are not sure if they have ever smoked, wait until you see an e-cigarette advertisement and ask them what their thoughts on vaping are.
2. Pay attention to your child’s mental health
A lot of teenagers smoke e-cigarettes as a way of dealing with stress and pressure. Pay attention to your child’s behaviour and the answer to ‘how was your day’ question.
3. Make your child aware of the risks
While vaping might relieve their stress at first, it can only add to the problem in the long run and cause both physical and mental health problems. Do your research and be prepared to answer your child’s questions.
4. Avoid smoking around your child
If you are a smoker, educating your child on the dangers of smoking might not be enough. To reduce their exposure and prevent them from developing the same habits, make sure you avoid smoking when they are around and keep the cigarettes out of reach.