Know the facts
Misinformation about vaping is everywhere. Two thirds of teens don’t even realize that e-cigarettes contain addictive nicotine.
Before the conversation, get comfortable with the key dangers and potential motivations for kids to vape. You may not feel like an expert, and that’s okay. Expressing care and concern is one of the best ways to support your child.
Check out our Get The Facts page.
Put yourself in your child’s shoes.
Consider your kid’s viewpoint. Imagine the obstacles, pressures and social environment before you address your concerns.
Remember what it was like when you were a kid. Make sure to relate to them. Remind them that you’re on their side. When empathy is expressed and good communication exists, kids take fewer risks.
Take an open and calm approach.
As you talk to your child, avoid judgment or frustration. Kids may pick up on your tone and tune out or react defensively.
An open conversation will disarm the notion that this is a lecture. It will also provide a relaxed environment to discuss ideas without making them feel like they are being blamed or in trouble.
Take time to practice.
For important and potentially difficult conversations like these, it’s helpful to know exactly what you’d like to say before you say it. Take time, in front of the mirror or with a partner, to run through the points that you feel are most important.
Consider how your child will react to the information. Try to anticipate how the conversation may go and come prepared to respond calmly to any situation. Use tips in this guide and our Get The Facts page to help as you prepare.
Acknowledge your child’s independence.
Your children make good decisions every day. Abstaining from vaping could be one of them.
Thank them for their responsibility and appeal to their good judgment.
Ask for their perspective.
Hear their side of the story first. It’s good to know what they find appealing or unappealing about it. If they’re interested in trying it, ask why.
Ask them open-ended questions rather than yes or no questions. This will help them open up, be engaged and be less defensive.
Be ready to hear that your child may have vaped.
A much higher percentage of kids have tried vaping than most parents recognize. There is a distinct possibility that your child has experimented with vaping.
Make sure to start by thanking them for being honest. This is key for continuing an open conversation and relationship of trust. Explain that your motivation is protecting and caring for them.
Blame Big Tobacco, not your kid.
Your child is the target of Big Tobacco advertising, devised to intentionally hook a young audience on nicotine, and make them customers for life. The same companies who funded and promoted cancer-causing cigarettes are the same ones behind many vape products like JUUL.
Remind your kid that you are both on the same side when it comes to Big Tobacco.
Avoid scare tactics.
It’s good to share your concerns, but don’t make the mistake of losing your child’s attention with dramatic claims.
Equating vaping with other temptations or illegal drugs actually reduces your credibility and chances of connecting with them.
Connect with what they care about.
Make their concern personal. Explain how vaping can prevent them from achieving their future goals.
Use information from our Get the Facts page to point out how proven physical damage to lungs and brain will affect any athletic aspirations. Illustrate how vaping takes an invisible toll on mood, memory and attention span, impacting academic or career goals.
Say thank you.
Let your child know that you appreciate them for listening, for their honesty and for continuing to make the right decisions.
Ending the conversation on a note of trust will make it easier for them to talk to you when they have questions or need advice.
Help your child manage stress.
Unfortunately, stress is universal and can be experienced at a young age.
Talk to your kid about any larger concerns or pressures they may be feeling. Make sure they have healthy outlets for relief.
Help your child manage peer pressure.
One of the largest motivating factors of youth vaping is influence from friends or classmates.
Consider rehearsing or role playing to give your kid the social tools to refuse tobacco products. Offer some quick facts or an anecdote that they may feel comfortable sharing. For more information and advice on how to help kids handle peer pressure, explore this resource published by the University of Michigan.
This isn’t a one-time conversation. Even if everything goes well, over time there will be new curiosities, product developments and research findings.
Make sure to leave lines of communication open. Fact sharing is a great way to reintroduce the conversation topic.
Stay up to date.
Vaping is an ever-evolving issue. Keeping your child protected means staying informed.
Sign up for our newsletter and refer back to our site as a trusted source for updates and trending new discussion topics.
Share this information.
There are other parents struggling with these same issues and how to address them. Share this website with them on social or in a quick email.
The American Lung Association is also helping schools address the youth vaping epidemic with the Vape-Free Schools Initiative, which equips schools with resources and support for kids who are caught vaping on campus, and those that want to stop. Share the initiative with your child’s administrators and teachers.
Special thanks to Dr. Yasmin Cole-Lewis, Dr. Lisa Damour, and Dr. S. Christy Sadreameli, who provided issue expertise and feedback on this vaping conversation guide. Dr. Yasmin Cole-Lewis is a postdoctoral fellow in pediatric pain psychology at Boston Children’s Hospital. Dr. Lisa Damour is a psychologist, best-selling author, monthly New York Times columnist, and regular contributor to CBS News. Dr. S. Christy Sadreameli is a pediatric pulmonologist at Johns Hopkins Hospital, where she takes care of pediatric patients of all ages with a variety of pulmonary conditions. She also serves as a volunteer medical spokesperson for the American Lung Association.