Vaping: How to Have the Conversation With Youth

On recent surveys of Boys & Girls Club CEOs and Club Directors, when we asked what resources would be helpful, understanding and preventing the use of vaping came up over and over. BGCA’s Youth Trends team has created a brand new guide to help Clubs learn about this phenomenon. 

What is Vaping?

E-cigarettes were first introduced to the United States in 2007 and have surged in popularity in recent years. In 2014, they surpassed traditional cigarettes by becoming the most common tobacco product used among youth. Over the last 20 years, the rate of youth who smoke has declined drastically, but the vaping trend could reverse that progress. A nationwide survey revealed that in 2018, the number of middle and high school students who had used some type of tobacco product in the past 30 days increased by 38 percent. This increase was driven by a jump in e-cigarette use.

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It can often be difficult to identify e-cigarettes due to their variety of shapes and sizes. Some are designed to resemble traditional tobacco products like cigarettes, cigars and pipes. Others looklike pens or USB drives. Regardless of the brand, e-cigarettes typically include four key parts:

  • A cartridge, which holds the e-liquid
  • An atomizer, which serves as the heating element
  • A battery, which is the power source for the device
  • A mouthpiece, which the user inhales the aerosol through
Image by CDC
Image by Minnesota Department of Health
Image by CDC

Since e-cigarettes are classified as tobacco products, the federal minimum age to buy them is 18. Several states have increased the minimum age to 21. Despite these regulations, high school students claimed that it is easy to get vaping devices and e-liquids. The products are sold in convenience stores, gas stations, pharmacies, smoke or vape shops, and online retailers. Among youth who had recently used JUUL, 52 percent reportedly got the product from a friend or family member.

Vaping is popular across demographics, but use is more common among middle and high school youth. Hispanic and white youth are more likely to vape than their black peers. Male youth also report higher rates of vaping than their female counterparts.

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How to Have a Targeted Conversation With Youth

Staff can help prevent e-cigarette use by having an open and honest one-on-one conversation with youth about the negative health consequences of e-cigarettes. Frame your conversation using the tips below, which is adapted from the CDC.

  • Know the Facts

Before having a conversation, it’s important to know the facts. Read the Commonly Asked Questions for Group Discussion section and check out the External Support Resources in the Vaping Prevention Resource Guide on You’ll be better prepared to talk about the dangers of e-cigarette use if you know the facts.

  • Find the right time to have the conversation

Look for opportunities to have natural, one-on-one discussions. You may see an advertisement, hear youth talking about vaping, or even see them vape. You can use these moments as a springboard to talk about the dangers of vaping, how it can lead to addiction, or how to quit.

  • Understand their perspective

Youth may be vaping out of curiosity, boredom, rebellion or a desire to fit in. This type of exploration is natural, especially among teens. It’s likely that they think that vaping is harmless. It’s important to understand youth’s perspective to help frame your conversation.

  • Have the conversation

Approach the conversation with curiosity and without judgment. Remember that your goal is to have a conversation, not give a lecture, which can place youth on the defense. Use non-judgmental language and ask opened-ended questions to get an idea of what they do or don’t know. By showing your interest and avoiding criticism or scare tactics, you can have a productive dialogue. This will allow you to further the discussion and engage youth in deeper conversation.

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  • Keep the conversation going

It’s OK for the conversation to be ongoing and take place over time. You are not going to change their behavior with one discussion. Regularly check-in with youth and keep looking for opportunities to continue the dialogue and give support when they need it.

For the entire Vaping Prevention Resource Guide, including key terms and definitions, how e-cigarette companies target their marketing to youth, commonly asked questions, and supporting youth who are trying to quit, Club staff can visit the Youth Trends page on


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