Helping Teens with Nicotine Addiction


We reached out to Kristy Braun, Nurse Practitioner at OSF Pediatrics and BN Parents’ Medical Spokesperson, to see what tips she has to share with parents regarding the concerns they are seeing in the office related to vaping. Kristy has been working with adolescents for over 25 years. Here is what she has to share.

Nicotine is a highly addictive drug that can have lasting damaging effects on adolescent brain development. It has been linked to a variety of adverse health outcomes.   We know executive functioning and neurocognitive processes in the brain do not develop until adulthood. This causes an increase likelihood to experimentation with substances such as nicotine and makes teens more vulnerable to physiological addiction.

Historically, smoking cigarette was more difficult during the school day.   However; with the ease of hiding an electronic device, the rates of nicotine addiction are increasing in the adolescent population.

How can you help your child quit the nicotine addiction?  First understand it is physiologically addicting which will make it difficult to quit.   Withdrawing can cause strong cravings, headaches, stomach aches and nausea.

In younger children stopping the supply is important.   Taking the device away, cutting off funding that feeds the habit is essential.  Many younger children do not have access to an income.   They tell me they use their lunch money or allowance given to them by parents to fulfill their habit.

The teen needs to be motivated to quit.  It might help to rate their motivation on 1-10 scale.  If they are not motivated success is unlikely.  Most teens understand the harm in nicotine and vaping.  Instead of lecturing, engage them in conversations regarding what they know about addictions and long term effects.    Once they are motivated, I suggest the following.

  1. Set a quit date.
  2. Know the challenges they may face: discuss their triggers and a have a plan when faced with the triggers.  Avoid tempting situations and have substitute for these situations (e.g. chew gum, relaxation techniques, distractions).
  3. Build a team to help: have supportive people to help, including peers as well as avoiding people who may be detrimental to their success.
  4. Have a response to those that encourage them to vape.

Medications (Chantix) as well as nicotine patches or gum used for adult smoking cessation have not been approved for people under 18.

In teens, more success has been found with Motivational interviewing and cognitive behavior therapy, by a licensed counselor.

Helpful resources that include apps and supportive text reminders;