Teen vaping: The risks, signs and helping them quit

Are you worried your teenage child is vaping? Are you wondering how you can protect them from this trend when it seems to be marketed directly at young people?


Vaping is increasingly becoming a widespread habit among teens. Despite being illegal before the age of 18, it has been called an "epidemic" among teenagers. In fact, according to the ASH Smokefree GB Youth Survey, 20.5% of children have tried vaping, and 7.6% are currently vaping. 

Vaping helps adults stop smoking; however, the marketing targets children and young people through colourful packaging and sweet flavours. Teens are more impulsive and likely to take risks than adults because their brains are still developing. Teenagers may see vaping as cool or rebellious, which appeals to them, and several social media influencers popular with young people are heavily exploiting this appeal. While adverts promoting vapes are banned from TikTok, for example, the use of e-cigarettes among influencers is widespread.

It is important to note that vaping is not a harmless habit. As well as damaging the lungs and worsening asthma symptoms, vaping can increase the risk of developing heart disease, stroke, and lung cancer, while young people are particularly vulnerable to long-term, long-lasting effects of nicotine on their developing brains. As well as nicotine addiction, other problems, including mood disorders, permanent lowering of impulse control and harm to the parts of the brain that control attention and learning, are associated with vaping. Not what you want for your child's developing brain...

Saying this, vaping is less common in youngsters than the media might have you believe. As stated above, in the UK, less than 8% of children are currently vaping. A low number, but it is essential to acknowledge that vaping is a reality for some teens, and its use is increasing exponentially. If you are concerned that your teen may be vaping, you need to talk to them about the risks and understand that it is not typical or healthy behaviour. Do your research on the dangers of vaping so you can talk to your teen about them clearly and concisely.

Signs your teenager is vaping

You might notice increased coughing at night, irritability, and thirst. The usual giveaway is the fruity and sweet scents wafting from their room.

How to start the conversation

  • Choose a time and place to have a private conversation without distractions.
  • Start by letting your teen know you're concerned about them and want to talk to them about vaping.
  • Be open and honest with your teen. Let them know you're not there to judge them but want to help them make informed decisions about their health.

What to say

  • Talk to your teen about why they should want to quit, and then you can tailor your support accordingly. The environmental impact of single-use vapes can be a good motivator for young people.
  • Be empathetic and understanding. Let your teen know that you know they might be tempted to vape but that it's essential to resist the urge. Quitting vaping is hard, especially for teens. Let your teen know you're there for them and willing to help however possible.
  • Encourage your teen to ask questions and be ready to answer them openly and honestly.

How to handle your teen's reactions 

  • Be prepared for mixed reactions from your teen. Some teens may be receptive to your concerns and willing to discuss vaping. Others may be defensive or angry.
  • If your teen is defensive or angry, stay calm to avoid arguing. Let them know you're there to listen and want to support them.
  • Don't give up if your teen is unwilling to talk to you about vaping. Try to speak to them again at a later time. You could also suggest they talk to another trusted adult, such as a teacher or counsellor.

Additional tips

  • Be respectful of your teen's feelings.
  • Avoid using judgmental language.
  • Focus on the facts.
  • Be patient. It may take some time for your teen to come around.
  • Don't panic. Give yourself time to let your feelings settle, and then you can feel prepared to have a constructive conversation with them.
  • Be a role model: If you or anyone in your household vapes, consider quitting or using alternatives. It's much harder for them to vape and easier to resist temptation if there are no vaping devices or products around the house.

Vaping among teenagers is a growing concern, but as their parent or carer, you have the power to make a difference. Remember, the most important thing is to let your teen know you're there for them and support them.

If you're struggling to communicate with your teen or need further guidance, I specialise in adolescent issues, so get in touch to see how we can work together.

The views expressed in this article are those of the author. All articles published on Counselling Directory are reviewed by our editorial team.

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Seaford, East Sussex, BN25
Written by Jennifer Warwick, MSc Psych, BACP Registered | Counsellor and Parenting Expert
Seaford, East Sussex, BN25

I am a BACP registered counsellor working online. I work with people who struggle to balance work, home and family life. People constantly rush, looking after others over themselves and are exhausted.

I specialise in supporting parents and carers as they navigate their child's tween and teenage years. Contact me for an introductory chat by phone.

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