Care and Feeding

Vaping in the Girls’ Room

Do I tell other parents that our daughters are using e-cigarettes?

A cloud of vape smoke, at least you hope it's vape smoke, wafts in front of a teenage girl.
Photo illustration by Slate. Photo by Thinkstock.

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Dear Care and Feeding,
My 14-year-old daughter spent the night with her best friend and I just saw photos of her vaping in the girl’s room. It is the second infraction—she was caught doing this about six months ago. I’m crushed and hate to see her thinking this type of behavior is cool and wanting to experiment.

Do I let the other parents know? At first I thought no. Then I thought about how mortified I would feel if I found out later that another parent knew that was happening at my house and didn’t tell me. Damn, parenting teens really sucks at times.

—Childhood Up in Smoke

Dear CUiS,
The question of when to let the other parents know about a certain behavior comprises a much bigger part of raising teens than I would have ever thought, and something I’ve really only come to get a grasp on through (pretty painful) trial and error. In general, if you have a working relationship with the parents I think it’s a normal part of that relationship to look out for each other the way kid friends do. Kids will cover for one another and help each other figure out how to hide things from adults, and it only makes sense that adults would bond to share resources in a similar way.

If you do not enjoy a friendship with the other parents, then I would reserve my snitch credits for situations where there is a danger so extreme that you’d be downright negligent to the child’s welfare not to share with the other parents. In those cases, I would let my own kid know that I’m going to be talking to the other parents about it. The only thing worse than being the child of the blabbermouth is finding that out as a total surprise in homeroom.

So the question here is about vaping, and I would add that there’s a nonzero chance that it’s also about pot. One of the tricky things about vaping is that parents are led to believe that it’s only nicotine (which is insanely addictive) and other toxic chemicals (which would be problem enough), but they don’t know it’s just as easy to vape cannabidiol (CBD) or even THC oil. And while some people love pointing out that CBD does not contain a psychoactive element, that is only true for 100 percent pure CBD, which is pretty rare. A quick read of labels of any CBD product would confirm that the vast majority of them contain some THC, and some boast a THC-to-CBD ratio as high as 1:1.

So on the one hand you have not wanting to ruin your daughter’s social life. On the other, you have 14-year-olds vaping nicotine, unknown chemicals, and quite possibly pot. Man, it sucks to be you. However, if it were me, I would take the rare third option, and my personal favorite: subterfuge and manipulation. I would tell the other parents that I caught my daughter vaping, and that since our kids are friends, they might want to have a pretty thorough conversation with their precious one about it too. I might even throw in a detail about how my daughter wasn’t completely honest about it the first time, to encourage them not to fall for their kid’s “who me?” act. Unless I was being tortured, I would not cop to the fact that I had personally seen their daughter vaping with my own eyes.

And as a concerned parent I’m sure you’re already on this, but it bears repeating that your kid is probably not going to be enjoying a sleepover for a good long while.

Welcome to adolescent parenting, my friend. You will need great love, great clarity, and great prayer, and you will never have enough of any of them. Good luck!