As my daughter’s high school graduation date approaches, I have been paying a little less attention to the messages that come from the school. I can’t help it… I’m more concerned about plans for college than the business of today. I know I should be more in the moment. Is there a parent version of ‘senioritis?’ I think I have it.

Some school messages do grab my attention though. My daughter and I got a kick out of the message expressing concern about ‘grinding’ on the dance floor and how said ‘grinding’ (always in quotes) was prohibited at all future dances. Although they didn’t define ‘grinding,’ I knew what they meant.

It was the message about vaping and JUULing that made me feel old. Sure, I’ve heard of vaping and e-cigarettes and even know some people that use them. But I had never heard of JUULing and I consider myself a pretty hip mom. I talked to my daughter about this message… Yes, she knows what JUULing is. Yes, she’s seen kids do it in school. Even in class. No, she doesn’t do it. Hmmmmm.

One of my co-worker’s high school aged sons has a friend whose parents bought him an e-cigarette. I found this shocking! It makes me think that maybe parents aren’t as aware as they should be about e-cigarettes and vaping and why maybe it’s not such a good idea.

The Basics

E-cigarettes, also known as pens and vape pens, simulate smoking by producing an aerosol of nicotine and other substances that is then inhaled. It’s often called ‘vaping.’ JUULing is similar but with a smaller, ‘cooler’ device that looks a bit like a flash drive and is therefore easier to hide from teachers and parents and can fit in the palm of your hand.

At least they aren’t smoking cigarettes, right?

We are lucky to live in a place where people just don’t smoke cigarettes indoors. I remember visiting my mom at work decades ago and all the ladies had ashtrays on their desks. My how times have changed. And although we see less kids smoking cigarettes, that doesn’t mean we shouldn’t worry about vaping. Vaping is just another vehicle for the same old drug – nicotine – but mixed with more chemicals.

Regardless of the delivery mechanism, nicotine is highly addictive. Nicotine is also damaging to brain development. And teenagers are far from finished in that realm. The rational part of a teen’s brain won’t be fully developed until the age of 25 or so.

Like everything else, we can’t really control it

I find parenting terrifying, rewarding, complicated, fun, difficult, energizing and humbling, to name a few adjectives. Regardless of how we educate our kids about the dangers of certain behaviors, they will sometimes make choices we don’t agree with. We can offer consequences and set rules, but the older they get, the less time they spend with us and the more you have to trust (and hope and pray and trust some more).

The point of this post is mostly about awareness. There are many great articles that tout stats about how kids that vape are more likely to try cigarettes later. That it’s hard to tell if the vape oil contains nicotine or THC (the active component in marijuana) and in what concentration (some have very high concentration delivering a whole lot of nicotine, for example).

While I’m a broken record with some themes (drive safely, don’t do meth, if you drink, don’t drive), I haven’t told my kids not to vape. Instead I’ve been having a dialog with my daughter. I’ve let her educate me on the subject and sometimes I throw in a fact or two. It’s a tightrope. Too many questions and she tends to clam up (even when I exclaim that my background is journalism… that’s what we do!). She might tell me she has friends that vape, but not which ones. She might tell me she’s seen kids do it in school, but not who did it. And the conversation might not last long, but it’s a start.

How to Talk with Teenagers About Vaping

Teenagers Embrace JUUL, Saying It’s Discreet Enough to Vape In Class