Teen Vaping –When it’s more than a choice

Is your teen struggling with vaping? Do you find that you can talk, shout, ground, give consequences, and other methods you have tried, but, still the vaping keeps coming back into the picture? If so, your teen’s challenge may go a bit deeper, it might be something they can’t control as easy as it appears – even if they are trying.

I have the opportunity to facilitate diversion classes for JR & SR high school students in the Chandler / Gilbert area who find themselves suspended from school due to vaping and substance use.  The program, “Thrive”, focuses on the underlying factors the student is facing that effects their choices & behaviors for becoming involved in substance misuse and provides tools and resources to support their needs.  The program also contains a parent / guardian piece that focuses on family empowerment and communication.  We are able to go beyond the behaviors and focus on the thoughts, emotions & feelings that produce the behaviors for both student & parent / guardian. In essence, a holistic & cognitive approach that follows the live of “change the thought & choice while regulating our stress & emotions – we change our behavior.”

This type of approach has proven to be very effective, however, this or any other “Best Practice” for addressing teen vaping should also include a nicotine dependency / addiction assessment to ensure the best opportunity for success in not repeating or falling back into vaping.

A problem that can throw a wrench into the mix is a nicotine dependency or addiction.  Nicotine, being present in most e-cigarettes and vaping devices, doesn’t care about your age, social & economic status or really anything else. Nicotine will affect the brain all the same.  Nicotine has the ability to cause a person to become defendant or even addicted.  Once this happens sheer willpower alone usually doesn’t overcome the problem.

 If not identified and understood, this type of dependency & addiction leads to shame, guilt, low self-esteem, hiding, lying and a number of other un-healthy challenges- along with continues use.  In fact, teens have become very emotional when they finally realize what they are dealing with, and are able to be vulnerable and share with their parents.  This type of challenge can be difficult to hear or deal with, but, it has great potential to empower and strengthen a parent & son/daughter relationship that establishes greater trust and bonding also allowing a teen to internalize their ability to overcome adversity in their lives! 

There is Good News! Just like in most cases, once a problem is identified a solution and plan can be found and put into action!  To have the greatest opportunity for success open & honest communication between the teen and parent / guardian is essential.  If you are experiencing a challenge inviting in a trusted second party (non-judgmental but parent approved) that your teen can relate to is very helpful with creating a way for honesty and cooperation. 

Here is a list of questions from the  teen.smokefree.gov  website.  If your teen answers yes to one or more of these questions, they “may” be addicted to vaping nicotine.

  • Do you continue to vape even though you want to stop or think it’s hurting you in some way?
  • Do you feel anxious or irritable when you want to use you vape, but can’t?
  • Do thoughts about vaping interrupt you when you are focused on other activities?
  • Do you still vape after getting in trouble with your parents or school for vaping?
  • Have you ever tried to stop vaping but couldn’t?
  • Do you feel like you have lost control over your vaping?

Here are a few ideas for “what to do.” They are definitely not the “be all – end all” but have been proven to be effective:

  1. There are a   number of websites that provide free “Quit Vaping / Smoking” plans and resources. These sites walk the parent / teen through the process from providing screening questions to determine dependency / addiction, action plans, daily activities, and resources that help you understand and cope with dependency & addiction.  
  2. Set up an appointment with your family physician.  They can advise you on the possibility and safety of using a medical suppressant or other medical method of assistance.
  3. Utilize a testing facility that has the capability to test for nicotine in the system.  This is also a positive.  A negative test builds confidence in both the parent and the teen and creates trust.
  4. Connect with a counselor, coach, faith based leader or other professional that has the experience & expertise to provide assistance with an evaluation & plan, mentoring, guided imagery, support that works for you and your teen.

Here are a couple resources that can be helpful:


(Personal plans, Craving & Withdrawal support, Anxiety & Stress tips, etc.)


(Youth smoking & vaping prevention & education, Quit smoking & Vaping Tools-Research & Evaluation)

Call 1-800-QUIT-NOW for free counseling.


Ted Huntington
Internally Certified Prevention Specialist
Manager: CCYSA/ICAN ccysachandler.org
CEO: Empowering Breakthrough LLC empoweringbreakthrough.com

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