Vaping & Substance Abuse

A Quick Guide for Students and Parents

A National Epidemic

Across the country, dangerous chemicals are walking their way into our schools. You may hear the terms vapes, vape pens, and/or e-cigs; these devices are e-cigarettes and they are dangerous and unhealthy. Vapes are devices shaped like a zip/jump drive. They are easy to hide and are used to smoke flavored liquids that contain harmful chemicals like nicotine. They can also be used to smoke cannabis and other drugs. More teens than adults currently use these devices. People often believe they are safer than cigarettes, but new evidence is showing that E-Cigs can be just as detrimental to the user's health as cigarettes. Vaping druing the teen years is a high predictor of future substance use and/or mental health struggles.

Helpful Links

Click on each image below and highlighted text for more information and resources. The Truth Initiative is another valuable resource for parents.

A Parent Perspective:

"As a parent, I was worried about my children falling into the “vaping trap”. E-cigarettes were

different from the cigarettes I grew up with. I did not know what they looked like or what to be

concerned about. I found it helpful to educate myself. I was amazed to find out that vaping was

more lethal than cigarettes. Hearing other parents’ testimonials helped me to feel more aware of

what I was dealing with."

Click below to see Parent's Testimonials and Stories, on the Parents Against Vaping website.

Signs Your Child Might be Vaping

More than one in five high schoolers and one in 20 middle schoolers reported that they had vaped within the past month. This year, the epidemic of youth vaping has continued to grow. More than 3.6 million U.S. school children vape, according to the Surgeon General. Below are Signs Your Child May Be Vaping:


  • Finding unusual or unfamiliar items
  • Behavioral changes, mood swings, agitation

  • Shortness of breath

  • Poor performance

  • Sweet fragrances

  • Weight loss

  • Nausea, vomiting

  • Mouth sores, abnormal coughing, throat-clearing

  • Lung injury, chest pain

  • Seizures

Kids and E-Cigs: What Parents Should Know

What We Are Doing To Help

You are not in this alone. As you work within your home to address vaping and substance use, your child’s school site is ready to support your efforts through education and school-based reduction and cessation services for students.


Each school site has a Wellness Center where students can find information on vaping/substance use as well as how to get access to community-based treatment. RJUHSD Wellness Centers offer on-site, referral-based access to Teen Intervene, a Screening, Brief Intervention, and Referral to Treatment (SBIRT) for Substance Use program facilitated by trained Wellness Center staff. Teen Intervene is an evidence-based program for adolescents with mild or moderate substance use disorders and sessions cover all drugs with a specific focus on alcohol, marijuana, and tobacco use.


If you want or need support addressing use or quitting, speak to your school counselor or any Wellness Center staff to get started or submit a referral for services and the Wellness Center will reach out to get started.

How You Can Help Your Teen

Want to talk with your kid about vaping but don’t know how? Here are a few tips to get that conversation started:


Before the talk:

  • Be patient and ready to listen - your goal is to start and maintain the conversation. This is not the time to argue, lecture, or judge. This is the time to listen and seek to understand.

  • Set a positive example by being nicotine-free


Starting the conversation:

  • Find the right moment and time - using the environment is a natural way to begin the discussion (driving past a vape shop, seeing an advertisement, seeing someone vape, etc…). Choose a time when things are more relaxed, not when anyone is rushed, upset, doing homework, etc.

  • Appeal to your child’s strengths/good judgement - talk about how trustworthy they are and that you have observed good decision making in the past. Just because they ask questions about vaping does not mean that they are doing it.

  • Ask open-ended questions - “what are your thoughts about vaping”, “do you know people who vape and how has it changed your view of them?”, "what would you do if someone offered you a vape?" versus "have you ever thought about trying it?".

  • Answer their questions and remember that it is OK to say “I don’t know”. This could be an opportunity to research the information together.

  • Connect vaping and substance use with interests in their life (sports, playing an instrument, singing, etc…). How would vaping affect their ability to carry out their hobbies and interests?

  • Equip your kids with a response plan. Expect that they will find themselves in a situation where there is vaping and talk with them about different responses to the situations and ways to say “no”.

  • Be mindful of your child’s current stress level and mental health. Many kids use substances as a release for challenging feelings. Your awareness of your child’s mental health can guide you into finding healthier, more appropriate coping strategies.


For additional information, examples of conversation starters, and examples of responses click here and here.