Family Nurse Practitioners Talking to Teens About Vaping

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fnp nurse talking to a teen about vaping

Family nurse practitioners (FNPs) treat individuals from infancy through adulthood, including adolescents as they navigate through the tumultuous teen years. In addition to diagnosing and treating medical conditions of all kinds, FNPs help teenagers and their parents understand the negative impacts of vaping.

Vaping devices, also known as electronic cigarettes or e-cigarettes, use nicotine, flavorings and other chemicals to produce an inhalable aerosol. While vaping may expose users to fewer toxins than cigarettes, numerous health warnings about vaping underscore the continued concerns.

Sophia Thomas, president of the American Association of Nurse Practitioners (AANP), said she begins educating patients when they are 12 or 13 about the dangers of vaping, including using photos of young people on ventilators as a result of e-cig use. She talks to teen patients about the dangers of vaping and the increased likelihood of using cigarettes in the future.

“Visual media often helps patients better understand the consequences of their choices,” Thomas said in “Vaping health risks raise alarm about educating younger generations.” “I use the same strategy when I talk about immunizations and 10 out of 10 times, they are more open to getting the vaccine after seeing a photo of someone with the disease.”

Thomas said nurses, doctors and parents underestimate how many teens are vaping. According to the 2019 National Youth Tobacco Survey, more than 5 million teens reported vaping in the 30 days before the survey and nearly 1 million reported daily use.

For registered nurses (RNs) who are considering an MSN career, including as an FNP, understanding the impact of vaping on youth and families is vital to practice. The leading FNP programs, including online master’s in nursing, help RNs bridge the gap between bedside care and primary care practice, including providing the support that teens and families need.

Health Warnings About Vaping

While the origins of the electronic cigarette date back to the 1930s, modern vaping devices have become popular among middle- and high-school students in the past decade or so. The 2019 National Youth Tobacco Survey found adolescents gravitate to e-cigarettes for three main reasons:

  • Use by family or friends
  • The variety of flavors (including fruit, chocolate and mint)
  • Belief that vaping is less harmful than smoking cigarettes

At the same time, health authorities have been warning about the dangers. E-cigs pack the same powerful punch of nicotine as cigarettes and have been marketed as a safer alternative. While e-cigs don’t have the tar of traditional cigarettes, they contain heavy metals such as cadmium, which can cause damages to the kidney, liver and heart.

In 2016, the U.S. Surgeon General labeled e-cigarettes use among youth and young adults as a major public health concern. In 2019, medical professionals began diagnosing E-cigarette or Vaping Product Use-Associated Lung Injury (EVALI) deaths and injuries nationwide. On Feb. 18, 2020, the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) identified 2,807 EVALI patients. Of those, 68 died as a result of EVALI.

Educating Teens About Vaping

Teens are more likely to get their health information from their friends or the internet, so the responsibility of educating young patients falls to the primary care provider. The Journal of Nurse Practitioners said NPs should follow several guidelines to help youth:

Learn more about vaping

Providers should educate themselves on vaping statistics, trends and scientific-based data. Using information from the National Institute on Drug Abuse and other reliable sources helps cut through the confusion to present young people with the facts.

Educate patients

Even though teens may say they understand the dangers, many do not. Provide evidence-based information that will demonstrate the dangers and remind them of government regulations that make the sale of nicotine products illegal to anyone under 21.

Screen patients to determine the vaping risk

Open conversations by asking if the patient has used or been offered an e-cigarette or a vaping device. No matter the answer, discuss the proven dangers of nicotine.

Thomas said NPs who open lines of communication with youth can create a trusted relationship.

“While it is understandable that patients may feel embarrassed or even afraid to be honest with their provider, it’s important to recognize that NPs, physicians, and other health practitioners take patient/provider confidentiality seriously and genuinely want to put patients on a path toward better and more sustainable health,” Thomas said in “What a Nurse Practitioner on the Front Lines Wants You to Understand About Vaping Illness.” “Trust and communication is the bedrock of the provider-patient relationship, and honesty about vaping (frequency, type of substance, etc.) can potentially prevent illness, further injury, or other health complications.”

FNPs Working with Teens and Families

Because FNPs treat individuals throughout a lifetime, they form relationships with their patients. These relationships can be helpful as teens make life choices that can ultimately impact their health. RNs who earn an MSN degree, including an online master’s in nursing, can become FNPs who can guide families through challenging times.

At Duquesne University, RNs take coursework to become primary care providers and work in a variety of settings, including independent practice. Duquesne University’s online master’s in nursing coursework prepares students for family nurse practitioner licensure exams.

About Duquesne University’s Online MSN Family (Individual Across the Lifespan) Nurse Practitioner

Duquesne University’s online FNP program prepares APRNs to work alongside physicians or independently in private practice.  The coursework is presented entirely online so nurses can continue their careers and personal lives while pursuing their educational goals.

RNs who have already earned an MSN degree have the opportunity to advance their education and career by earning an FNP Post-Master’s Certificate.

The online MSN FNP program prepares APRNs for the American Academy of Nurse Practitioners Certification Board (AANPCP) and American Nurses Credentialing Center (ANCC) Family Nurse Practitioner certification examinations.

The university also offers MSN degrees in five other tracks:

  • Nurse Education and Faculty Roles
  • Adult-Gerontology Acute Care Nurse Practitioner
  • Psychiatric-Mental Health Nurse Practitioner
  • Executive Nurse Leadership and Health Care Management
  • Forensic Nursing

For more information, contact Duquesne University today.



Vaping health risks raise alarm about educating younger generations:

2019 National Youth Tobacco Survey: U.S. FDA

Johns Hopkins Medicine: 5 Vaping Facts You Need to Know

Cleveland Clinic Journal of Medicine: Vaping: The new wave of nicotine addiction

Outbreak of Lung Injury Associated with the Use of E-Cigarette, or Vaping, Products: CDC

Health Care Professionals: Educate Your Young Patients About the Risks of E-cigarettes: CDC

Vaping—Effects on Patient Health and Its Alarming Rise Among Teens: AANP

What a Nurse Practitioner on the Front Lines Wants You to Understand About Vaping Illness: Prevention