Vaping and Your Kid’s Health: A Guide for Parents

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Marketed as a healthier alternative to cigarettes, vaping is now being linked to a stream of bizarre lung illnesses causing shortness of breath, chest pain and vomiting.

Six people have died from a severe lung illness linked to vaping. More than 200 people, mostly teens or young adults, in 25 states have developed a mysterious illness after using an e-cigarette, reporting respiratory symptoms, such as shortness of breath, chest pain and coughing. Doctors have likened the illnesses to the body reacting to a caustic substance that is inhaled, like an inhalation injury.

“The use of electronic cigarettes, or vaping, has become very popular with teens. This is disturbing because nicotine can have a significant impact on the developing brain,” said Dr. J. Craig Allen, medical director of Rushford. “Attention, concentration and memory can all be impacted and using nicotine in adolescence or young adulthood is associated with the development of other addictions later in life.”

Manufacturers have been accused of marketing to younger users with a variety of flavored vaping products, which can introduce even more harmful chemicals – ultrafine particles, diacetyl, formaldehyde, benzene and heavy metals like nickel, tin and lead — to the body. Pods used for vaping come in such flavors as grape soda, Froopy (tasting like Fruit Loops cereal), watermelon ice, wild cherry, strawberry milk and mint.

A recent article in the American Journal of Preventive Medicine indicates that there remain “notable gaps in parents’ awareness of Juul,” an e-cigarette brand. Only 44 percent could identify an image of Juul as a vaping device.

“Through the years, a public health approach has been very successful in decreasing cigarette use,” Dr. Allen said. “Now we need to use a similar approach to educate parents and protect children from the harms of vaping. One in every five high school students and one in every 20 middle school students vape regularly. Connecticut schools suspended or expelled six times as many students for vaping in the 2017-18 school year as just two years earlier. It’s rampant and kids who vape are four times more likely to transition to smoking tobacco cigarettes.”

He suggests parents talk with their teens and pre-teens about vaping and e-cigarettes armed with credible information they can find here.

His other tips include:

  • Avoid criticism and lecturing. “You want to start an open, honest conversation with your kids,” he said. “Be ready to listen.”
  • Find the right moment. Try using a situation – seeing an ad or someone vaping – as a prompt for the conversation. Ask them what they think about it.
  • Enlist help. Your child’s primary care physician, teacher, coach or another relative can all be called upon to speak to them.
  • Answer questions. If you don’t know the answer, go to the Surgeon General’s website together and look for it.
  • Set a positive example. If you smoke, try quitting. For help, go to or call 800.QUIT.NOW.

For more information on teen services at Rushford, click here.

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