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How you should discipline a teen for vaping

Learn what's an appropriate punishment for vaping teenagers

Ah, adolescence. That time of awkward growth, confusing feelings, and unstoppable urges to try new things. It's also the time when teens think they know everything when the reality is they're just learning. Unfortunately, many teens today as young as 13 will try vaping at least once. Some tweens are already into vaping.

If you've discovered your teen is vaping and you're not sure what to do, don't worry. You aren't alone. It's hard to know what an appropriate punishment for vaping is, but we've got great suggestions to help you.



What You Need

  • Patience

  • Quiet, safe space

  • Professional help if needed

Teen vaping has almost spiraled out of control with middle and high schools dealing with vaping issues in restrooms and elsewhere on school grounds. As parents, we need to be concerned about teen vaping because of the chemicals it exposes kids to, as well as the likelihood of nicotine addiction. Then, there's the rise in lung injury related to an illness associated with vaping. It's important teens understand the risks of vaping, which is where finding an appropriate punishment comes in.

Teen girl vaping near a blue wall
Aleksandr Yu/Shutterstock

How to find an appropriate punishment for vaping

Your teen is no longer a baby. As hard as it is to accept, they’ll make their own decisions no matter how hard you might try to counsel them. Teens are still in your care until they reach adulthood or move away though. While most parents will put their foot down and staunchly exclaim that it’s their house and their rules, this approach is rarely effective. Read on to discover ways to effectively discipline your teen without alienating them altogether.

Step 1: Always offer a safe space for dialogue.

Instead of approaching your teen with scare tactics and a furious voice, keep calm. You want to establish a honest, open dialogue that will lead to solutions and not just severe punishment. Ask lots of questions and listen to their answers. Then, respond thoughtfully. Instead of trying to “get through” to them, talk about the risks of vaping openly.

Step 2: Give honest information without exaggerating the facts.

Once you’ve established a safe space physically and emotionally for conversation, give it to them straight. Tell your teen why vaping is harmful to their health without resorting to the typical “smoking kills” campaign. Teens know the health effects of smoking conventional cigarettes, though they might not be aware of the full effects of e-cigarettes. Lots of teens mistakenly think vaping is a safer alternative to smoking.

Step 3: Explain why nicotine addiction is dangerous.

Talk about how smoking can lead to other equally addictive habits, like drinking or dangerous substances. If you want to take it a step further, talk to your teen about why e-cigarettes are so popular with their peers.

In other words, they’re specifically designed to smell and taste good, to be very discreet, and to make them look cool. Tell them why this marketing ploy is dangerous and why they shouldn’t fall for it. If you need more information on e-cigarettes and some very relevant statistics about teen vaping, check out this article by the Child Mind Institute.

Step 4: Set clear boundaries.

As much as teens think they're ready for adulthood, they aren't. While parenting isn't the same as when they were younger, it's just as important to have structure as kids get older. The tween and teen years are tough, which is why having structure and setting clear boundaries is vital. Make sure your teenager understands vaping is just as unacceptable as smoking.

Step 5: Avoid setting inappropriate punishments.

Whenever teens mess up, it's important to keep the consequences appropriate to the action. For example, if they miss curfew, they can’t go out for the next week, or their curfew is now an hour earlier for the next month. An inappropriate response to a missed curfew might be taking away their cell phone for two months or cutting off their internet access for good.

Step 6: Dole out appropriate penalties.

The appropriate punishment for vaping is a little tricky than missing curfew. You don’t want to freak out and stomp the e-cigarette in front of them. Nor do you want to sneak into their room when they’re away and just hide the thing forever. If they only vape occasionally or have only used it once, take away the vape before it becomes a bigger problem.

Take away some privileges temporarily, like access to the car if they drive, having friends over, going over to friends’ houses, or getting to use their laptop for fun. If you’ve discovered or if they’ve confessed that they have a nicotine addiction, then the way out might look a little different.

Teen vaping outside
Aleksandr Yu/Shutterstock

Find out why they’re vaping and help them find healthier alternatives or treatment

For teens who have developed a nicotine addiction, getting professional help is the best step. As with cigarettes, quitting cold turkey might be a too-aggressive approach that can lead to some unsavory side effects. Help your teen curb their use slowly until they’re no longer dependent on it.

Step 1: Get them help if needed.

If your teen is vaping for a specific reason, such as masking depression, releasing stress, or escaping abusive situations, it’s also time to get professional help. Comfort your teen and tell them they have other choices besides vaping. Seek out trustworthy teen therapists in your area and make the appointment for them.

Step 2: Find alternative activities for them.

Discover and offer recreational activities for your teen. Enroll them in sports classes, dance or music lessons, art classes, volunteer work, and other alternatives to vaping. These are not only productive, but they’ll also eliminate the need for vaping if your teen is smoking to deal with boredom.

Step 3: Know who your teen hangs out with.

Your kids are teenagers, so you're not scheduling play dates for them, but it's still important to know who their friends are. The teens your son or daughter spends time with will have a big influence on whether they choose to experiment with vaping. It won't be easy because teens make it hard, but try to keep a handle on the kids your kid has in their friend group.

Step 4: Keep track of them.

Monitor their actions but let them have their space during their healing period. Follow up regularly whether it’s through casual conversation or designated well-being check-ins. Most importantly, let them know you’re there to talk and help if they need it.

Whether it’s peer pressure, curiosity, emotional problems, or boredom, teen vaping is alarming. Your teen is trying to exert independence by making their own choices, but you can guide them toward a healthier path. Before giving them a harsh punishment, make sure you talk to them about why they’re vaping and how often. Give them the low-down on the negative effects of vaping, but don’t scare them into throwing it away. Always give them appropriate consequences and be consistent with your discipline approach. Don't hesitate to seek professional help.

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