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5 things to keep in mind when talking to your kids about e-cigs

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Teens Vaping
A 15-year-old high school student uses a vaping device near the school's campus in Cambridge, Mass.
Steven Senne | AP

The Minnesota Department of Health this week alerted people to four cases of severe lung disease. Children’s Minnesota thinks those recent cases could be linked to vaping — which is gaining popularity among younger users

Here are a few tips for parents of kids and teens who vape, things to watch for and how to talk about it.

1) Prioritize the talk

Start by talking to young people about e-cigarettes and vaping just as you would about drug, alcohol and cigarettes.

“As parents we tend to turn a blind eye to things that we really don’t want to see, as much as we might want to deny that,” said Children’s Minnesota Chief Medical Officer Dr. Emily Chapman, who warns not to make the mistake of assuming your kids are somehow not exposed to vaping.

“Our teens are out in this community and exposed to all sorts of things,” she said.

2) Make it a conversation about what they’re seeing

Chapman said rather than asking young people outright if they vape, ask them about their environment.

“Are many kids at school vaping? Are many using e-cigarettes?”

3) Remind them of the risks

Many young people assume vaping is not dangerous, Chapman said. Remind them that’s what many people thought about cigarettes for decades and that no one knows the long-term implications of inhaling vaping’s various unregulated aerosols.

“Help them understand that was seems obvious — ‘cigarettes cause cancer’ was not obvious for a long, long time, and the concept that ‘e-cigarettes or vaping is safer’ is something that we really haven’t established,” Chapman said.

4) Pay attention to changes in health

Watch out for suspected lung infections that aren't getting better.

If you have a child who has a respiratory illness that is not improving the way you would expect it to over the course of a week, it’s worth looking at more closely, Chapman said. Even if your child has been diagnosed with bronchitis or pneumonia and is getting treatment, pay attention if it’s not improving.

5) Watch for changes in behavior

“We would always be concerned with teenagers who have difficulty keeping up with their peers, who have excessive cough, who may have been performing well on their athletic team and are now struggling to some extent,” Chapman said.

These changes of behavior could point to the use of e-cigarettes — or not.

Chapman cautions those symptoms could have nothing to do with vaping and instead indicate anything from asthma to depression.

So, talking to your kids about what they’re seeing and experiencing is essential to keeping informed on their overall health.

Your story: Do you or does your child use e-cigarettes?