Talking to a young person about e-cigarettes/vaping
Sometimes students feel more comfortable talking about their personal issues with a trusted teacher than with a family member. Teachers can assist students with accessing appropriate resources and support. When suspecting e-cigarette use, different schools will have different policies and approaches and it is important to be aware of these and respond accordingly.
If you are approached by a student about their e-cigarette use, or you think a student or someone else is using e-cigarettes, here are some tips to allow you to support them and communicate effectively with them about their use:
- Gather information to make sure you have an understanding of what e-cigarettes are, their effects, and the laws for the use of e-cigarettes in your area. Reflect on the young person's situation so you can organise your thoughts and have a clear idea of what the concerns are around their e-cigarette use. Some resources include:
- Arrange a suitable time to talk where you will have some privacy and won’t be interrupted
- Ask about their e-cigarette use; don’t make assumptions that they are using e-cigarettes
- It is also important to remember that many young people who try e-cigarettes will only try a few ‘puffs’, while others may use them more regularly and develop nicotine dependence (see glossary)
- In some cases, a student aged 18 or over may have been prescribed e-cigarettes by a doctor to help them quit smoking tobacco cigarettes
- There are many myths about e-cigarettes that you could address and help the young person understand.
- The conversation will be most effective if you avoid judging or lecturing. This can be extremely difficult! But you are more likely to get through to the young person if you have a two-way conversation rather than lecture them
- Listen to the young person and express your concerns in a supportive and non-confrontational manner. Evidence suggests that “motivational” rather than confrontational conversations are most helpful. Watch Making the Link for video demonstrations of how to have motivating conversations with young people
- Use statements including “I” as this doesn’t put the blame on them. Instead of saying, “You make me feel worried when you use e-cigarettes” say something like “I feel worried about your e-cigarette use”
- Remind them of their good qualities. Young people will be more likely to listen and take advice on board if they feel valued and respected
- Be trustworthy and supportive so they know that they can rely on you in a time of need and that what they tell you is kept confidential (unless concerns for safety override)
- Discuss barriers they may face when trying to stop e-cigarette use and help think of ways to overcome these barriers. For example, you could brainstorm different ways to deal with pressure from peers or alternative activities to help them relax.
- Remind them that it is human to make mistakes, and not to be too hard on themselves. Let them know that help is available
- It may be helpful to provide achievable and specific targets for reducing e-cigarette use.
- If they do not want to change, encourage them to learn how to reduce their risk of harm until they’re ready to quit. Let them know you are available to talk in the future.
There are a number of evidence-based resources available here.
Quitline provide further information and guidance about supporting teens to stop vaping, both online and over the phone (13 7848). Aboriginal and multilingual counsellors are available.
This factsheet was developed following expert review by researchers at the Matilda Centre for Research in Mental Health and Substance Use at the University of Sydney the National Drug & Alcohol Research Centre at the University of New South Wales, and the National Drug Research Institute at Curtin University.