For years, parents have worked hard to prevent kids from taking up smoking. And though it seems that kids mostly get the message about the dangers of tobacco, they may be hearing false information about vaping or e-cigarettes. These electronic cigarettes are battery-operated and can look like a real cigarette or pen. There are hundreds of brands and they’re sometimes marketed as a way to get your nicotine fix without the danger of cigarettes. However, they are dangerous. Kids should not use any nicotine product. Recent science raises concerns about the adverse effects of nicotine on adolescent development, not to mention that there are a wide variety of other substances being consumed in the e-cigarette vapor.
Recently, I became aware of a new vaping device that is flooding the schools. It is known as a Juul. It looks like a small thumb drive. It is easy to conceal because it may be no larger than a couple of inches long and a half inch wide. Juuls are so inconspicuous and innocent looking that they go undetected in homes and schools on a regular basis. They work just like all of the other vaping devices. They are filled with a liquid that usually contains nicotine, flavorings (including watermelon and bubble gum) and other chemicals, and a heating device turns the liquid into vapor that you inhale. Young people are attracted to the flavors as well as the discreet device. Your child could be using one of these and it would be hard for you know it.
Ask your teens what they know about vaping and what they think about it. And talk to them about the dangers—but don’t focus only on the repercussions and consequences of it. Broaden the conversation to be about the bigger issues involved here like facing temptations and following Christ. See this as another opportunity to walk along-side and disciple them in a world full of enticements that threaten to consume them. Whether it is pornography, alcohol, drugs, or any other temptation, let them know you understand the pressures they face, because you face them, too. Once they know you understand, you will win a voice in their life.
Here are a few aspirations when discipling kids on an issue like this:
- Identify how hard it can be to live in a world and not give in to what is tempting—the flesh is weak. Sympathize with their struggle. (Matt. 26:41)
- Connect them to a God who understands their struggle. Woo them to his compassion. (Heb. 4:15-16)
- Young people need direction and help to live self-controlled lives. Model self-discipline yourself. (Titus 2:12)
- Instill in them that even if something seems permissible (legal, acceptable, not dangerous), it does not mean it is good—or good for you. (1 Cor. 6:12)
- Remind them that God can provide a way out from tempting situations. Provide options and help. (1 Cor. 10:13-14)
- When they are caught in a struggle, God can deliver them. Be available and accessible when they are struggling. (Ps. 50:15)
- There is always grace and forgiveness waiting for each of us. Freely offer forgiveness and mercy when they sin. (Lam. 3:22, 23)
So though vaping is a new topic to address with young people, the underlying spiritual issues are familiar. Because this is true, we can offer honest sympathy for their struggles—we face temptation too. We can also show compassion and offer wisdom from lives lived, as we come alongside our kids and walk with them through this and similar trials. Our kids need Scripture to be made relevant in their lives and parents are the greatest resource God can use to do that.