Preventing kids and teens from vaping
Vaping isn’t harmless and there are risks. Adolescence is a time of increased susceptibility to the harmful effects of nicotine, including addiction, particularly as young brains are still developing into their 20s and young people can become dependent on nicotine with lower levels of exposure than adults.
- Nicotine can affect memory and concentration and is known to alter teen brain development.
- Exposure to nicotine during adolescence may cause reduced impulse control as well as cognitive and behavioural problems.
- Vaping may predispose youth to addiction to nicotine and possibly other drugs.
Helping to prevent kids and teens from vaping starts with a talk from someone they can trust, showing concern about their health and well-being. Parents, teachers, role-models, and other trusted adults can all initiate a conversation that makes a difference in their lives. What can you do to help the kids and teens in your life be vape-free? Read on for some tips to consider before you have the talk.
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Understanding teen vaping
A survey of Canadian students in grades 7-12 (secondary 1 through 5 in Quebec) indicated that vaping prevalence doubled between the 2016–2017 and 2018–2019 survey cycles.Footnote 1 For more information, consult Vaping in Canada: What we know.
In Canada, it is illegal to sell or provide vaping products to anyone under the age of 18. Some provincial laws have increased this age to 19 or 21.
Our public opinion research (early 2020) with youth (aged 13-19) also highlights that:
- The most common reasons for youth to try vaping are: curiosity, flavours, to fit in, to be cool, in response to social influences, and to reduce stress.Footnote 3Footnote 4Footnote 5Footnote 6
- The “head-rush” or “buzz” was cited as the “best part of vaping” among those vaping higher concentrations of nicotine.Footnote 3
- Youth with friends who vape are significantly more likely to use vaping products themselves.Footnote 3
- Most, but particularly those who vape regularly, vape at school, including the classroom but especially in bathrooms and the school yard.Footnote 3
Vaping products can deliver as much or more nicotine than a cigaretteFootnote 8 and their use can be easier to hide. Health Canada is proposing regulations to further restrict the nicotine content of vaping products and is considering additional regulatory measures to further restrict flavours, with the goal of reducing their appeal among youth.
Talking about vaping
Building positive relationships and connections with young people through open and non-judgmental conversations can help them feel comfortable to ask you questions before they ever try vaping – or any other substance. While it’s best to have a talk before they start, it’s never too late to have one. Even if they have started to vape, an open and caring conversation can go a long way to help them stop.
Before having a conversation, educate yourself about the risks associated with vaping. Then, offer to share what you’ve learned when the moment is right. Be patient and ready to listen. You may need to discuss it more than once. For more information on talking with teens about vaping, check out our tip sheets for parents and teachers.
Adults who smoke or vape can also be a positive influence by sharing their insight and not offering tobacco or vaping products to family or friends. If you are vaping to help you quit smoking, talk with your teen about it. Talk to them about addiction and how hard it can be to quit. And remember, quitting smoking is possible. For free help, visit gosmokefree.gc.ca/quit or call 1-866-366-3667.
Federal regulations prohibit the advertisement of vaping products in public spaces if the ads can be seen or heard by youth, whether in stores, online or other media channels.
Having a conversation about developing “media literacy” remains an important opportunity to explain how various forms of media can influence audiences to think in a certain way about products or associate them to certain lifestyles. When someone reflects on the goal behind the message, they are more likely to recognize influential tactics, and make an informed choice.
When you see someone vaping online, in a movie or in any media, start a discussion about how vaping is being shown and why. Watch for possible unrealistic or stereotypical situations that associate vaping with:
- rebellion (vaping as a symbol for challenging authority)
- a way to relieve stress (as tension builds, the person reaches for their vape)
- popularity and having fun in desirable social settings (even though in real life, vaping is prohibited in most indoor and many outdoor areas)
- a way of life that includes glamour, recreation, excitement, sex appeal, vitality, risk or daring.
Signs of vaping activity
The best way to find out if a young person that you care about is vaping is to have an open conversation with them.
Keep an eye on the repeated or extended presence of one or more of these potential signs:
- Changes in mood, such as increased irritability
- Changes in ability to concentrate or focus
- Increased coughing, wheezing and asthma exacerbationsFootnote 3Footnote 7
- Sweet smells, such as fruit, dessert, or mint
- Spending a lot of time with friends who vape
If you’re also finding strange electronic parts that you don’t recognize, it’s possible they could be parts of vaping devices. Read on to learn more about how to recognize them.
Types of vaping devices
Figure - Descriptive text
Components of a Vaping Device (e-hookahs, vape pens, vapes, e-cigarettes, tanks)
The components of a vaping device are labelled: mouthpiece, tank or reservoir (for vaping liquid) and heating element. Four additional, distinctly-shaped vaping devices feature above a description that states “Many shapes and sizes”. The device shapes vary, some long and narrow, ressembling a pen; some small and diminutive resembling a USB key or bulkier, containing a large rectangular reservoir affixed to the cylindrical, protruding mouthpiece.
Vaping devices are available in many shapes and sizes (many more than shown here). Some are small and look like USB drives or pens, while others are much larger. Add-ons like vinyl "skins" or wraps can make vaping devices harder to recognize, and there is even clothing designed to make vaping easier to conceal.
Learning about the different types and parts of vaping devices and accessories can help you better recognize if your teen is vaping. For more information, including a video on The Mechanics of Vaping, check out our page About Vaping.
- Vaping awareness resources (print, digital and video)
- Youth vaping prevention campaign
- Consultation: Proposed Concentration of Nicotine in Vaping Products Regulations
- Footnote 1
Summary of results for the Canadian Student Tobacco, Alcohol and Drugs Survey 2018-19, https://www.canada.ca/en/health-canada/services/canadian-student-tobacco-alcohol-drugs-survey/2018-2019-summary.html
- Footnote 2
Canadian Tobacco and Nicotine Survey (CTNS): summary of results for 2019, https://www.canada.ca/en/health-canada/services/canadian-tobacco-nicotine-survey/2019-summary.html
- Footnote 3
Quorus Consulting Group Inc. (2020). Exploratory Research on Youth Vaping, https://epe.lac-bac.gc.ca/100/200/301/pwgsc-tpsgc/por-ef/health/2020/069-19-e/report.pdf
Environics Research. (2018). Longitudinal Vaper Panel Survey to Measure Attitudes and Behaviours regarding Vaping Products, https://epe.lac-bac.gc.ca/100/200/301/pwgsc-tpsgc/por-ef/health/2018/047-17-e/report.pdf
Environics Research. (2019). Vapers Panel Survey to Measure Attitudes and Behaviours Regarding Vaping Products, https://epe.lac-bac.gc.ca/100/200/301/pwgsc-tpsgc/por-ef/health/2019/083-18-e/report.pdf
Earnscliffe Strategy Group. (2020). Social Values and Psychographic Segmentation of Tobacco and Nicotine Users and Non-Users: Final Report, https://epe.lac-bac.gc.ca/100/200/301/pwgsc-tpsgc/por-ef/health/2020/048-19-e/report.pdf
National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine; Health and Medicine Division; Board on Population Health and Public Health Practice; Committee on the Review of the Health Effects of Electronic Nicotine Delivery Systems. Public Health Consequences of E-Cigarettes. Eaton DL, Kwan LY, Stratton K, editors. Washington (DC): National Academies Press (US); 2018 Jan 23. PMID: 29894118.
Voos, N., Goniewicz, M.L., Eissenberg, T. 2019. What is the nicotine delivery profile of electronic cigarettes?, Expt. Op. on Drug Del., 16(11), pp. 1193-1203, DOI: 10.1080/17425247.2019.1665647.
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