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.

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.

The majority of youth obtain vaping products from social sources such as acquaintances, friends and family, rather than from retail.Footnote 1Footnote 2

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:

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.

Media literacy

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:

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:

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.

Related information

Footnotes

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

Return to footnote 1 referrer

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

Return to footnote 2 referrer

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

Return to footnote 3 referrer

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

Return to footnote 4 referrer

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

Return to footnote 5 referrer

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

Return to footnote 6 referrer

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.

Return to footnote 7 referrer

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.

Return to footnote 8 referrer

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