Let's face it, teens have always been a handful. They are untrained experts en-masse at finding ways to thumb their noses at the rules and defy their parents while -- mostly -- not actually doing any real harm. They date people you hate, they wear outrageous clothes, wear so much eyeliner they look like raccoons, get tickets for speeding in their mom's borrowed cars, and do stupid-dangerous tricks with skateboards. Parents and educators for thousands of years have been trying to keep a handle on the rebellious nature of teens to seek out whatever 'cool' thing will upset their parents most.
The Teen Vaping Trend
And this year, the new coolest thing to freak your parents and teachers out with is vape. And as a parent, that's probably got you pretty effectively freaked. You've heard about teens vaping in school bathrooms, behind the gym, or wherever they hang out after school. You may have heard of, or even encountered, the rising trend of secret underground teen vaping parties. If you ever suspected your teen was vaping, your head might just explode. But part of the reason parents are so afraid -- and teens are so effectively bothering their parents with this act of rebellion -- is because of all the scare-tactic skewed information being put out by anti-vaping groups and individuals.
So today, we come to parents agenda-free to share what you really need to know about both vaping and the teen vaping trend. We're not here to sell you something, we don't have lobbyists trying to change vape law. Here at Velvet Cloud, we're strongly in the camp that vape is awesome - for adults. But as parents, aunts, uncles, and concerned citizens, we're no more in favor of teens vaping than you are. And we realized that there's a serious deficit of honest articles for parents out there on how to deal if you catch or suspect your teen of vaping.
How Teens Acquire Vapes
Quick Tip: Don't assume your teen lied about their age or borrowed your credit card to buy their vape. It probably came from a friend.
Since the dawn of time, teens have been getting their hands on things they shouldn't have. They bum cigarettes from older friends, get into their parent's locked liquor cabinets, 'borrow' the car keys without permission (or a license). But parents are always most tempted to target the vendors first. Vape devices, accessories, and e-liquid are all age restricted, usually along the same lines as cigarettes. Every website that sells vape has an age-checker and requires visitors to either be over 18 or to lie in order to even access the page.
Vapes From Friends
But most teens don't get their vape supplies by lying about their ages online. Most go through older sources, buying vape pens and liquid from friends in school hallways or even receiving them as gifts from friends who have greater access through older friends/relatives/willingness to lie.
So as our first tip don't assume your teen actually broke any of -your- household rules to acquire or use a vape. They probably didn't lie about their age online or borrow your credit card to buy the vape gear. Most teens won't actually cross that line. The vape probably came from a friend and it might even go home with that friend.
Your Teen Might Not be Getting High
Quick Tip: Most teens aren't actually breaking your no-drugs rule. They're vaping flavored vegetable oil to feel cool.
When a parent sees their teen with a vape or hears from the school that their teen was caught in a group of vapers, you are rightly terrified. Scared that your teen might be developing a nicotine addiction from peer pressure, or that they are secretly vaping cannabis concentrates in their e-liquid. The problem is that just seeing a vape pen, you have no idea what's inside.
Most Vape is Just Flavored Oil
However, believe it or not, most teens aren't vaping nicotine or cannabis. In fact, those clouds aren't getting them any higher than the giddiness of breaking the rules and taking deep breaths. The vast majority of vape juice sold is plain old vegetable glycerine - VG (not unlike your kitchen cooking oil) and propylene glycol - PG (commonly found in cake icing). The flavors are also not intoxicating. They are perfectly normal essential oils and flavor concentrates.
Every Teen Generation Pretends to Smoke
In reality, the vape trend is just an evolution of how we, as pre-vape teens, used to use lollipops or the occasional chocolate cigar to pretend to smoke and feel really cool doing it. Even if it looked ridiculous. Teens have always enjoyed pretending to smoke without actually breaking the no-drugs rules. In fact, many don't believe in getting high at all, but they like vaping with their friends and the feeling of blowing non-intoxicating clouds of flavored vegetable oil.
So if you see your teen vaping, take a deep breath. It might not be as bad as you think.
How to Know if Your Teen is Vaping Nicotine, Cannabis, or Plain VG
Quick Tip: Check the Bottles for Nicotine Content. Pour Out Unlabeled or Cloudy Vape Juice.
Let's say you do walk in on your teen vaping out their window, or holding an illicit vaping party in the basement/garage. Before you flip your lid this is your chance to be the coolest drug-free parent ever. Don't yell. Don't kick everyone out and ban them for life, your teen will only find somewhere else to vape with their friends. Before leveling any consequences, what you really want to do is determine just how far the rule-breaking has gone. Chances are, you'll still be mad. But you'll be less mad if you can confirm that your teen-and-friends were just vaping clouds, not actually getting high on cannabis or nicotine.
Identifying Nicotine Bottles.
Instead of immediately freaking out, very calmly ask to see every bottle and cartridge of e-liquid they have. Don't be afraid to do a little shake-down. Turn out pockets, empty bags, and line up every bottle in a line on the table. Then take a good look at the labels. If they say "0%" or "0 mg", what this means is that there is no nicotine in the mixture. Whoever bought the vape specifically chose a nicotine-free bottle that provides pure clouds with no high or addictive substances. But if there is any percentage or 'mg' at all, confiscate that nicotine.
Identifying Hand-Mixed Cannabis Vape
Cannabis detection is a little trickier. While they do sell cannabis-infused bottles and cartridges of e-liquid, it's also pretty common to mix concentrates into normal e-liquid for a homemade high. Fortunately, we have a few pointers for this as well. As a rule of thumb, confiscate any e-liquid that isn't labeled, because it could be another teen's nicotine or cannabis alternative stash and there's no way to know without a lab test. Next, take a good close look at the vape bottles. If any look unevenly cloudy or with small floating particles, take that too, as it has probably been custom-mixed. Commercial liquids are well-blended in production and the liquid will appear uniform on inspection.
Anything you confiscate, make sure to pour it out, the same as you would with confiscated alcohol. Never assume a teen (or a friend) is above fishing in the trash for a closed bottle.
The Real Health Issues with Plain VG Vape
Quick Tip: Watch out for dehydration and allergic reactions. Ignore scare-tactic web content.
There are some really powerful anti-vape propaganda machines out there saying stuff that's not actually true about plain VG or PG vape. You've probably heard that vape has formaldehyde in it, that it will give you cancer, that it's untested and therefore inherently dangerous. You may have even heard that it will rot your teeth or make you go blind. All that stuff has been said, but that doesn't make it true or mean you should fear for your teen's health if they were caught taking a few puffs.
VG and PG Are Mildly Dehydrating
In reality, VG is a slightly different permutation of cooking oil and is as safe to vape as it is to cook with. Without calories. Both VG and PG bond with water molecules, which puts vapers at a slightly higher risk for dehydration, but that is really the only prominent health risk of wide-spread vaping. Particularly if the vapers in question don't add nicotine or cannabis to the flavored oil mix.
The Occasional PG Allergy
It should be mentioned that some people have an allergic reaction to PG (propylene glycol). Like many FDA-approved products, a small percentage of the population develops an allergy. Symptoms include cough, sore throat, rashes, pimples, hives, headaches, chest tightness, tinnitus worsening, and general itching. If your teen comes to you with these symptoms, vaping PG may be the cause. Even if they insist it can't be because they've 'vaped before', that 'before' may have been with VG-only mixes that did not include the PG they are allergic to.
Having the Vape Talk With Your Teens
Quick Tip: Be understanding, share the facts, lay down the law.
Most parents are prepared to have the 'sex' and 'drug' talks with their kids. In fact, by the time they're old enough to be sneaking vape hits in the school bathroom, you've probably already covered those bases. But with today's teen vaping trend, it's now important to have the vape talk as well. Whether or not your teen is already in trouble, you suspect they might be vaping, or your teen seems to be a perfectly obedient angel.
Do Your Vape-Facts Homework
To start with, get educated. Start by doing research that digs into the small number of actual scientific studies on vaping. Skip the opinion pieces, go straight to the science. This is how you can sort fact from fiction, pro-vape marketing from scare-tactics to find out what's really up with vape.
Get Their Perspective on Vape
Then sit down with your teen and, we suggest, open by asking them what they know and have heard about teen vaping. Listen to what they have to say and be understanding, this is your best chance to get insight into the vaping scene at your teen's school and in their friend group. Not to mention a glimpse into what your teen knows and how they currently feel about others vaping at school.
Lay Down Your Official Vape Rules
Use this opportunity to share what you know from your research. Then make it clear that vape isn't a 'gray area' in the rules for your household. However, you decide to feel about vape, lay it down in no uncertain terms. Make it clear that your teen is breaking the rules if they vape, and especially if they give in to vaping something intoxicating. Also, remind them that things other than nicotine or cannabis can be added to e-liquid and to be careful about trust. Just as they would accepting an unsealed drink at a party.
Keep Your Cool
Finally, remember to be a cool parent by setting consistent and reasonable boundaries. Make it understood that grounding, allowance restriction, and other consequences will be leveled if your rules are crossed. But that you love your teen anyway and they should feel safe bringing any real concerns about school activities, their own health, or the safety of their friends to you if they are ever really worried.
For adults, vape is the perfect way to sate a sweet tooth without calories. It is a lung-safe way to quit smoking. It can even help legal adult cannabis dabbers to reduce their use by diluting concentrates into tasty VG clouds. But it's not something teens should be doing no matter how cool it seems. Here at Velvet Cloud, we want to help parents maintain the rules and keep teens safe from intoxicants while also breaking up the blind terror caused by scare-tactic content.
As a responsible parent, we hope this article has given you the perspective you need to understand your teen's interest in vaping and how to respond in the many real situations where parents discover their teens have been vaping without permission. For more insights on vaping, check out other articles in this blog or contact us with your vape-related questions on social media.