9 Ways to Tell if Your Child is Vaping

Teen and child vaping is the new epidemic parents of Gen-Z children are facing. Parents and teachers across the United States and even other countries have seen a large rise in children and teen nicotine addiction since the e-cigarette came out. Teen vaping figures have had a 14% increase just in the past 3 years. With their sleek designs and fruity flavors, teenagers cannot resist them. Teens are developing a nicotine addiction from these devices. Here are some ways to tell if your child is vaping.

  1. Unrecognizable Items

E-cigs and vape pens come in all sorts of shapes and sizes. Some vapes are big and bulky, and some are slim and sleek. Devices to look out for include unusual looking pens or USB drive type items. You can confirm they are electronic cigarettes by looking at the device. There will be openings and/or holes on both ends. Some vapes have a button on the side and some will look like a classic smoking device, looks like an actual cigarette/cigar.

Vape Components

There are other things parents and teachers should look out for. E-cigarette products have multiple parts and components that go along with it. You might notice empty “pods” that will look like little plastic squares that are half clear and half black. You will find them thrown in the trash, common areas, or even the car. The pods are part of the most popular e-cigarette device, the JUUL. But you may notice some sort of refill cartridge or strange chargers in the wall or lying around. These are a few ways to tell if your child is vaping.

Other parts that could offer a warning would be metal coils, organic cotton balls, bottles of flavored liquid or “juice”, or colorful round rubber bands. These pieces belong to the larger e-cigarette typically called “mods”. These are bulkier versions that produce a larger cloud of smoke.

The new vape:

There is also a new type of e-cig on the market to look out for and those are disposable vape devices. These have grown in popularity over the last year to minimize the number of pieces needed and are easier to hide or dispose. The disposable vapes look like short plastic pieces, about finger length, usually with a brand name on them. Popular brand names for disposable e-cigarettes to look out for are Mojo, Stig, +Pods, Sea Stix or FOGG.


  1. Strong smells (fruity, minty, or sweet)

There are many flavors and types of vapor with some being odorless. But teens and children that are vaping typically resort to the sweet and/or fruity flavors of vapor. The piece containing the vapor flavor is called, e-juice, e-liquid, or flavor pods. Most public places will allow users to smoke e-cigarettes because the smell does not linger or remain on the fabric. However, when smoked, there is a brief scent in the air that is very apparent. Due to this light scent, findings have shown that many teens will smoke their vape inside their rooms, house, and even in the car when their parents are not looking. If you start to notice sweet-smelling scents in the air, coupled with certain behaviors, this could be a sign your child is vaping.  

  1. Child irritability, mood swings, behavioral changes

You may notice behavioral changes in your child including increased irritability or sudden mood swings. This would be a direct link to the introduction of nicotine addiction in a child or teen. Teens that have not previously smoked cigarettes and are starting to vape, are introducing nicotine on a consistent basis to their body. They will develop a nicotine addiction which can result in behavioral changes. Modern e-cigarettes can have up to 6x higher nicotine levels than the first generation of e-cigarettes.

Early signs of nicotine addiction can include increased anxiety, irritability, restlessness, difficulty concentrating, depressed mood, anger, frustration, insomnia, and changes in bowel movements. If your child is showing any of these behaviors it may require further investigation.

  1. Changes in appetite and thirst

According to a study, nicotine activates a pathway in the brain that suppresses appetite. If your child’s normal appetite begins to decrease, this may be a sign. In addition to the loss of appetite, continuous vaping causes one’s mouth to dry out. When this happens, the desire for more flavor or even spice may increase. This is another potential sign to look out for, coupled with other considerations. This is because their taste buds are being suppressed and so crave a stronger flavor.

Sensitivity to Caffeine

Parents also might notice their teens changes in the desire for caffeine. Studies have found that when one begins to vape, the introduction to nicotine induces a sensitivity to caffeine. So, if your regular coffee or tea drinking teen begins to skip their drink routine, you might have to search for more signs of underage vaping.

Dehydration or ‘Dry Mouth’

Additionally, dehydration is a key sign in vaping. Dry mouth or “cotton mouth” is a common side effect of the daily use of electronic cigarettes. One of the main ingredients in “vape liquid” is propylene glycol, which is considered a hygroscopic substance that absorbs and holds in water molecules causing major dehydration. If your child is oddly increasing their liquid intake, this may also be a sign.

  1. Weight loss

Previously stated under appetite changes, because new nicotine addiction may suppress one’s appetite, signs of weight loss may occur. If your child is eating less and becoming a lot thinner, there is a chance they could be addicted to nicotine through vaping.

  1. Unexplained cough, mouth, or throat issues

If your child has an unexplained cough or throat issues, this is a very strong sign of new vape use. There are numerous factors incorporated into new throat issues when it comes to vaping. First, most e-cigarette products contain very high nicotine levels which can cause elevated throat irritants causing instant cough or a dry dull cough over time.

Burning Throat Sensation

Additionally, if the vape device has a leak, this can cause the raw e-liquid to go straight into the mouth and/or throat causing instant irritation and a burning sensation. Studies have shown that most new users begin coughing when they are introduced to vaping.


  1. Shortness of breath & chest pain

There are many cases of young teens having shortness of breath and breathing problems after vaping especially in sports. In Massachusetts, a story of a young high school hockey player who became addicted to the electronic cigarette, the JUUL, talks about how vaping negatively impacted his athletic career.

According to the teen, “I couldn’t stay on the ice for more than a minute and a half before being gassed. My lungs couldn’t handle it. I felt like I couldn’t pull enough air into my lungs.” If your child or student begins to show signs of shortness of breath, particularly during physical activities which they previously had small issues, your child could be vaping. Read more about the potential health risks for young nicotine addiction.

  1. Nausea or nosebleeds

Because vaping leads to dry mouth, it may also cause dry nose leading to random nose bleeds. As previously stated, the liquid substance found in e-liquid, propylene glycol, causes dryness by absorbing moisture in the mouth and if inhaled through the nose, nasal cavities as well.

In addition to nose bleeds, teens who are newly introduced to nicotine may become nauseous and in some cases cause vomiting. Any frequent use of nicotine whether it is a cigarette or e-cigarette will experience some type of stomach issue in the beginning stages.

  1. New lingo, words, or slang

Another sign to look for is new “slang words” for vaping. This includes words like:

  • JUULing, JUUL central,
  • Vape life, JUUL life, Vape tricks
  • Vape gang, JUUL Gang
  • Clouds, Clouds bro,
  • Mods, Mod life,
  • Vape Fam, Vape society
  • Vaporized, Lights Camera Vapor

If you hear your teen saying or posting any of these words, this may be a sign your child is vaping.