RE@LBlog brings another medical perspective on youth vaping: Dr. Rose Marie Leslie is a Family Medicine resident at the University of Minnesota, and is a well-known TikTok social-media influencer.
Dr. Leslie uses her social media platform to talk with teens about various health issues that matter to them. Our readers will find the many insights she shares with teenagers helpful on the perils of vaping.
Dr. Leslie has become a welcome source to many followers, including the many teenagers who appreciate her candid and helpful health tips.
She recently partnered with Children’s Minnesota in support of their anti-vaping campaign and was willing to do this recent interview with us.
RE@L’s Media Producer, Tacy Mangan, conducted the interview below.
BLOG #1 of 3- ADVICE FOR TALKING WITH TEENS ABOUT VAPING:
“I think people are really struggling right now with anxiety. It’s a really difficult time…a lot of people are turning to things like vaping to see if that can help their anxiety, their stress because they don’t know where else to turn.” – Dr. Leslie
The interview begins:
(Tacy) TM: “It’s not always what you say, but how you say it. How do you talk to adolescents about vaping?
“…approach it as a partner in health rather than…this older parental figure telling them what to do”
(Dr. Leslie) DL: I think the most important thing when starting conversations about topics like this, is to come from a non-judgmental place and understand why somebody would be vaping to begin with or what might have caused them to start. I then really approach it as a partner in health rather than just kind of this older parental figure telling them what to do.
TM: The majority of people who will be reading our blog are educators. What can parents or educators say to teens about vaping?
“…it’s good to start a conversation about vaping with teens from a place of curiosity…”
DL: I think it’s good to start a conversation about vaping with teens from a place of curiosity. Ask teens if it’s something they’ve tried it or why they tried it to begin with, and ask them what they know about it. I think a lot of teens do know that there are some harms or at least they have heard that maybe vaping is harmful. Maybe they have decided to continue vaping and maybe they can’t stop. They’ve tried quitting and they’ve been unsuccessful and they need help.
A lot of those things you can learn about by approaching the conversation with curiosity rather than shame or judgment and then ask questions, like asking what they know, asking how they feel about it, or are they disappointed in themselves because they’ve tried quitting and they haven’t been able to do so.
“…asking questions, approaching with curiosity, with empathy, with understanding, those types of approaches can help…”
You don’t always know where they’re starting from or that they might not know that there are harms associated with vaping to begin with. So, asking questions, approaching with curiosity, with empathy, with understanding, those types of approaches can help you have a dialogue and help you understand where the teen is at regarding the use of vaping. The answers will help you figure out how to help them and what ways you can be a support person.
TM: Since teens are so well informed these days, what tips would you have for educators and parents about how to educate themselves about vaping?
DL: I like to have people turn to trusted sources. “Children’s Minnesota” has a good informational page on the website that gives resources related to vaping and cigarette use. I also always talk to parents about looking at trusted sources, like the Minnesota Department of Health website, the CDC Web sites. Those are always where I would have people start looking first. (Click on the blue links for more information.)
“How do you start conversations with kids about vaping?”
DL: There’s also a lot of information, really good information, for parents on that site about what the e-cigarette products look like because they can be very discreet and people might not know what they are. They cover topics like: How do you start conversations with kids about vaping? How do you talk to them about talking to your health professional health care provider about these concerns? So, I think that that’s a really great place for somebody to start if they’re wanting to get more information.
TM: What do you think also about peers talking with their peers about vaping? Does peer pressure come into play?
DL: I think one thing about GenZ (teens) that I absolutely love, and this is just solely based on my personal experience working with GenZ, both on TikTok and with my patients, is that GenZ teens are actually very respectful of different people’s choices, and their individuality. I’ve seen a lot less of bullying, “oh, you’re not doing this because you must not be cool if you’re not vaping that kind of thing.” I think those conversations, I’m sure, are still happening, but I think there’s this general kind of value that a lot of GenZ’rs have that are like, “Ok, that’s not something you’re doing. That’s cool.”
“…GenZ teens are actually very respectful of different people’s choices, and their individuality.”
I know peer-pressure still exists. I think that ultimately, if a lot of your friends are doing something, you will do it too, regardless of whether or not somebody’s saying, “Hey, man, you’re not cool if you don’t do this or you can’t hang out with us if you aren’t doing this.” I think if you see a lot of your friends doing something, you will want to do it, too, and so I think that that definitely exists for teens.
It might be that those friends have some misinformation about vaping or might not have a full understanding about vaping and might say something like, “Hey, it’s harmless. I’ve been vaping for years and I’m totally fine. So, if you want to try it, that’s fine.” I think that’s when the conversations are potentially harmful, when people are spreading misinformation and some are feeling pressured to use or might think that it’s OK to start doing it and it won’t affect their health long term.
TM: Good information, Dr. Leslie, and presented in a way that teens will listen! There’s hope for the world thanks to GenZ and to family doctors like you!