Twelve Talks to
Have With Teens
Vape & Tobacco
Vaping is a problem across the country and continues to be prevalent here in Colorado. The good news is that the 2021 Healthy Kids Colorado Survey (HKCS) shows that the majority of Jeffco youth realize that vaping is harmful, and over half of youth who vape report wanting to quit! Keep reading to learn how you can talk to the young person in your life about vaping and tobacco use, and how to support them in quitting or never starting in the first place.
- While fewer youth are smoking cigarettes, the rapidly growing popularity of vaping devices is undoing decades of declining youth tobacco use. According to the 2019 HKCS data, 26 percent of Jeffco high school students currently use vaping products, compared to 4.1 percent who use cigarettes and 5.2 percent who use cigars, chewing tobacco, hookah, or bidis.
- Youth who use electronic cigarettes (vaping devices) are four times more likely to smoke traditional cigarettes in the future.
- Vape companies target youth through sleek designs, social media advertising and thousands of appealing candy/fruit-like flavors. Many youth cite appealing flavors as the number one reason why they vape.
- Vaping devices are marketed to youth as being stealthy and something you can do anywhere at any time, even in the bathroom or classroom in school. They can be disguised in hoodies, as key fobs, in mint tins, etc. It’s important to remember that stealth vaping culture is heavily marketed to youth by the tobacco industry.
- Jefferson County high school students have easy access to vape and tobacco products. Due to lack of regulation compared to other tobacco products (like cigarettes needing to be kept behind the counter), vape products can, and often are, placed in self-service displays at eye level for younger youth or right next to candy and snacks.
- Vaping is highly addictive. The pods for JUULs (one of the most popular vaping device brands among teens) contain nicotine 100 percent of the time. The amount of nicotine in one JUUL pod is equivalent to an entire pack of cigarettes, making vape juice highly addictive.
- The teen years are when long-term habit forming takes place. Introducing an addictive substance, like nicotine, into this development can potentially lead to permanent alterations in brain chemistry and make the brain more vulnerable to other forms of addiction in the future.
- Vaping, like smoking, is dangerous to lung health. According to the CDC, smoking puts people at higher risk for complications related to COVID-19. Additionally, our nation was in the midst of a multistate outbreak of E-cigarette, or Vaping, Product Use Associated Lung Injury (EVAL) when the coronavirus pandemic struck.
2019 Healthy Kids Colorado Survey
Vaping can be a confusing issue, and there are a lot of different vaping devices on the market today. Watch this video to get familiar with vape and learn how it impacts Colorado youth. (2:05)
What do you think about addiction? What do you know about nicotine being addictive?
If your friends wanted to try vaping, how would you handle that?
Why do you think people your age vape?
What do you think the tobacco industry wants you to believe about vaping?
Over 1/2 of Jeffco students who vape say they tried to quit in the past year? Why do you think it’s so hard for them to quit?
Of course… I need to know where you will be & who will be there.
1 in 4 high school kids in Jeffco think vaping isn’t harmful to teens. Why do you think they believe that?
- If you see an ad pop up on social media, show to your teen, then use it as an opportunity to ask questions.
- When you are in the car, you are very likely to drive past a vape store. Point it out to start a conversation.
- Ask your teen if they have ever seen videos about vaping or smoking. Ask to if they will show you one– and then discuss how those videos subtly (or not so subtly) promote use.
- Ask if anyone they know has ever been caught vaping at school. Or ask if they have ever seen other people vaping at school.
- Talk with your teen about the consequences of tobacco use. How do they think using these products could impact their future?
- How many youth are actually vaping? Youth vaping has become prominent because of how it is perceived as “normalized,” which is a result of increased product accessibility to teens and the tobacco industry targeting adolescents. Because of this, many teens believe that “everyone vapes,” when in reality 26% of Jefferson County youth report currently using e-cigarettes.
- Do your teens– or their friends– know HOW to quit? Most teens don’t. Here is a list for free help available via phone, text or the web. Or reach out to the nurse at your school.
- Would I recognize a vape if I saw one? Vaping or e-cigarette devices come in all sorts of different shapes and sizes. Familiarize yourself with what these products look like. Some of the most popular are the JUUL and the Sourin.
- Do youth in my life know how I feel about selling or giving vape or tobacco to others? Let your teen know what your values are about “plugs” selling addictive and harmful substances, particularly to younger kids.
Rules & Boundaries
- The legal age to purchase tobacco products is now 21.
- Familiarize yourself with your school’s Tobacco Free School (TFS) Policy. Make sure you and your teen both know and understand the consequences for being caught with these devices. Find Jeffco Public Schools’ TFS Policy here.
- Let your youth know what your family, team or organization rules and values are about smoking and vaping.
- Also, let them know you are not okay with their friends vaping and smoking in your car or home.
Equity & Inclusion
The tobacco industry has a history of targeting marginalized populations, thus causing higher rates of tobacco use and addiction, often leading to worse health outcomes within those communities.
- Targeting youth and minority populations with flavored tobacco is a key strategy of the tobacco industry. For example, 85% of all African Americans who smoke use menthol cigarettes, including 7 in 10 African American youth. Two videos from the truth initiative about this are Black Lives/Black Lungs and Read Between the Lies.
- Tobacco is a social justice issue because the tobacco industry has used its power to lure and addict the historically oppressed to its deadly products. The tobacco industry has historically targeted African Americans and other marginalized populations, thus creating significant health disparities among those populations.
Taking Action in your Community
Reduction of risk factors, and improvements in protective factors, can happen on multiple levels– within an individual, among friends and family, by adjusting systems in places like schools or businesses, and on the policy level for towns, counties or states. When improvements happen on all levels, our teens are most likely to thrive. Here are some policy and systems you and/or your teens might be able to influence:
Some cities have restrictions on vaping, tobacco and nicotine product promotions, signage, merchandising, location, etc. These types of policies may help reduce youth tobacco and nicotine use.
- Join Tobacco Free Jeffco to address local policies and efforts that support youth.
Health education students receive (including information about substance misuse and effective skill development) varies by school.
- Ask your school how they are implementing health education for all students. Ask if the school knows about the district’s Health Education Policy and related resources. Ask/promote your teen to take a high school health education elective.
Youth in Colorado are suspended or expelled from school or involved with law enforcement for using vapes, e-cigarettes and tobacco/nicotine products, and youth of color or youth that experience a disability are more likely to be disciplined than white youth in Colorado.
- Ask your school about their discipline practices and code of conduct. Ask how they are implementing health and substance use education. Ask about Jeffco’s restorative practices and how they are being implemented equitably for all students.
- Having data in our county on youth tobacco and nicotine use and behaviors helps to bring in resources and support for youth.
Email the local Board of Education (see example letter here) to share your support for the Healthy Kids Colorado Survey and Healthy Schools Smart Source to get important information on youth needs in our community.
Join your School Accountability Committee and ask about using non-academic data and information (e.g., health information, climate survey data, etc.) to guide school improvement efforts and plans.
* Healthy Kids Colorado Survey 2019, Jefferson County data; **Jefferson County CTC Youth Town Hall data 2019, 2020 & 2021.
This resource is maintained with funding from a Coalitions Organizing For Prevention grant from the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment and a Drug Free Communities Grant from the Centers for Disease Control. The views, policies and opinions expressed are those of the authors and do not necessarily reflect those of the grant providers.