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E-Cigarettes: Talk About the Risks

In recent years, e-cigarette use by youth and young adults has increased at an alarming rate. The U.S. Surgeon General declared e-cigarette use among youth an epidemic, with rates increasing 78 percent from 2017 to 2018. New data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention shows one in five high school students and one in 20 middle school students currently uses e-cigarettes. Because most tobacco use starts during adolescence, it’s important for parents to talk to kids about the harmful effects of e-cigarettes and encourage them to live tobacco-free.

What are e-cigarettes?

E-cigarettes are electronic devices that heat a liquid – usually containing nicotine mixed with the chemicals propylene glycol and glycerin – into a vapor that users can inhale (called vaping or “Juuling” by most teens and young adults). Common nicknames for the devices are, “e-cigs,” “e-hookahs,” “mods,” “vape pens,” “vapes,” and “tank systems.” E-cigarettes, or Juuls – a popular e-cigarette brand – come in many shapes and sizes. Some e-cigarettes look like regular cigarettes, cigars or pipes. Some look like USB flash drives, pens, or other everyday items.

How is vaping harmful to teens?

Most e-cigarettes contain nicotine. Nicotine is highly addictive and can harm brain development, which continues until about age 25. Research shows younger users of tobacco products are more likely to become addicted and have more difficulty quitting. Besides nicotine, e-cigarette aerosol can contain substances that harm the body. This includes cancer-causing chemicals and tiny particles that reach deep into lungs. Research has also shown that young people who use e-cigarettes may be more likely to go on to use regular cigarettes or other drugs. 

Why are teens vaping?

Reasons for e-cigarette use among youth include taste, curiosity, and the belief that e-cigarettes are less harmful than other tobacco products. The e-cigarette industry spends millions of dollars a year to promote their products directly to teens and young adults. E-cigarettes are available in candy flavors such as bubble gum and gummy bear, which appeal to this age group. More than 85 percent of e-cigarette users ages 12-17 use flavored e-cigarettes.  

Talk to your teen. 

Parents play a key role in keeping their kids tobacco-free. Here are some tips to help you talk with your teen about e-cigarettes:

  • Know the facts. Before the talk, learn about the different types of e-cigarettes and the health risks for young users. 
  • Find the right moment. Use teachable moments, like seeing someone vaping on TV or driving by an e-cigarette store, to ask your teen what they think about vaping.Use open-ended questions. Start by asking open-ended questions like, “What do you think about vaping?” Remember, your goal is to have a conversation, not to deliver a lecture. 
  • Set clear family rules about tobacco use. Let your teen know that you want them to stay away from all tobacco products, including e-cigarettes.
  • Try role-play. If you have a younger teen, it may help to teach your child how to say “no” to peer pressure through role-play.
  • Ask for help. Ask your child’s pediatrician, teacher, or a trusted adult friend to help you warn your teen about the risks of e-cigarettes. 
  • Set a good example by being tobacco-free. If you use tobacco, it’s never too late to quit. For free help call the Wisconsin Tobacco Quitline at 
  • 1-800-QUIT-NOW. You can also find tips and tools for living tobacco-free on the Health & Wellness page at www.anthem.com/wisconsin.
  • Keep the conversation going. Videos and online tools are a great way to remind your teen about vaping health risks. You can easily share videos and webpages from e-cigarettes.surgeongeneral.gov through texting or social media.

To learn more about all the ways you can stay healthy, visit the Health & Wellness page on www.anthem.com/wisconsin. Our team of experts shares new health tips, topics, and preventive care programs for you and your family to use. Anthem is a community partner of Chippewa Valley Family.


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