Parents and communities can help prevent teen vaping

A woman and her teenage daughter sit on the couch discussing something that the teen is reading on her mobile phone.
"Bonding is so important. Keep connected and interested in their lives--academic, social, health and spiritual," said Melissa Tomascik, PROSPER prevention coordinator. Image: Shutterstock/Black Rock Images

As vaping becomes more prevalent in high schools and middle schools, parents and communities can take steps to prevent teens from vaping or engaging in other risky behaviors, according to Penn State experts.  

Melissa Tomascik, prevention coordinator for the PROSPER (PROmoting School-community-university Partnerships to Enhance Resilience) program, and Jonathan Foulds, professor of public health sciences and psychiatry at the Penn State College of Medicine, responded to concerns about the rise in vaping by teens on the Jan. 30 episode of “Conversations LIVE” on WPSU.  

“Vaping is a huge concern with parents,” Tomascik told listeners. “Vaping has only been around since 2015, so we don’t know what kind of gateway drug  it could be.”  

More than one-quarter of 12th graders nationally have vaped nicotine in the past month, according to the National Institute on Drug Abuse.  

“In PROSPER, we start to talk with kids in 5th and 6th grade,” said Tomascik. “We teach them skills to cope with stress. And we want them to be prepared to say ‘no’ if they experience peer pressure.”

She offered these recommendations for parents:

  • Start open and honest conversations about your expectations and the consequences for engaging in risky behaviors.
  • Discuss the statistics and health concerns. There may be a perception that “everyone is doing it;” however, if 25% of their peers are vaping, this means that 75% are not.
  • Bonding is very important. Keep connected and interested in your kids’ lives--academic, social, and spiritual—and in their health.
  • Get to know their friends and social networks. When they go out, ask questions: Find out where they’re going, who they’ll be with, and when and how they are getting there and returning home.
  • Be alert for any changes or signs that could signal emotional or behavioral problems, conduct or academic problems, or issues with sports or friends. Express concern, stay calm and seek support if needed. The earlier a problem is addressed, the better.

“We focus on prevention, no matter what substance is out there. We know decreasing risk factors, increasing protective factors, and supporting our youth will give them a healthier future,” said Tomascik.  

She also advised communities to support evidence-based programs for youth and families, like PROSPER. Penn State’s EPISCenter supports a range of evidence-based programs for schools and service providers across Pennsylvania.

People Mentioned in this Article

Melissa Tomascik