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Spot the Signs of Vaping in Kids

The 2019 Youth Risk Behavior Surveillance System found 1 in 3 North Dakota high school students has vaped. In 2020, the federal government banned all tobacco sales to people under age 21. It is illegal for anyone 20 or younger to purchase tobacco products, including vapes. However, the tobacco industry continues to target youth by adding enticing mint or sweet flavors to vapes, cigarettes, chewing tobacco, and nicotine pouches. The U.S. Food and Drug Administration has banned the sale of flavored vape products sold in cartridges, but the industry has sidestepped the ban by creating new disposable products that do not use cartridges. Here in Cass County, kids in elementary school have been caught vaping.

The tobacco industry knows 95% of all smokers start by the time they turn 21. They are using the same logic to get kids addicted to the nicotine in vapes. There are many sneaky ways the industry markets to young people under age 21: product placement in movies, TV, and video games; kid-friendly flavors that mimic popular cereals, candy, fruit, and even energy drinks; brightly colored ads and packaging; and the use of influencers on social media.

There are many potential signs that your child or student could be vaping. If you spot any of the following signs, look for vape supplies.

  • Declining academic or athletic performance.
  • Sweet, minty, or fruity smells without an obvious source like candles, lotion, food, or gum.
  • Changes in behavior such as increased mood swings, irritability, anxiety, or impulsivity.
  • Using new terminology or words that seem out of place such as “zero out”, “I lost my pen”, “Can I borrow your book” or referring to people whose names you have never heard before.
  • Frequent headaches, nausea, or dizziness.
  • Increased risky behavior.
  • Discarded pods or disposable devices.
  • Unfamiliar USB, pens, highlighters, small vials, eye dropper bottles, coils, or batteries.
  • Restlessness/sleeplessness.
  • Complains of being out of breath.

Where should you look for vape supplies?

  • Coats, hoodies, and pants pockets.
  • Backpacks & purses.
  • Between the mattress and box spring of your child’s bed.
  • Unfamiliar chargers plugged into the back of gaming consoles.
  • Apple-style watch worn with the clock upside down or showing the wrong time of day.
  • In your teen’s car console or the floor of the vehicle.
  • Behind closed doors if you smell sweet, fruity, or minty scents.

Where do kids vape?

  • Bedrooms and bathrooms.
  • While driving.
  • On the bus, in classrooms and school bathrooms

Why is nicotine dangerous?

Nicotine is an addictive stimulant that acts on the same reward pathways as heroin or cocaine. It primes a child’s brain for future addictions.

Brain Development

The human brain continues to develop until age 25. Nicotine exposure prior to age 25 can change how a young person’s brain is formed, including the ability to pay attention, learn, and make decisions. Nicotine can affect their mood and can permanently lower impulse control.


Nicotine withdrawal symptoms include anxious feelings such as a racing heart, distracted thinking, and sweaty palms. These symptoms may temporarily go away when a person vapes, but the cravings always come back, along with the anxious feelings. This can become a vicious cycle for kids dealing with anxiety and nicotine withdrawal. They think the vape calms them, but nicotine is actually a stimulant that creates more anxious feelings.

Resources to Quit Vaping

Fargo Cass Public Health is here to help with local, state and online resources to leave nicotine addiction behind:

• The Break Away from Nicotine (BAN) program at Fargo Cass Public Health offers free quitting resources to Cass County, ND residents. The program includes personalized, face-to-face counseling and for residents over the age of 18, a limited supply of nicotine replacement therapy. Call 701.476.4083 to learn more.

• My Life My Quit – Text “Start My Quit” to 36072 My Life My Quit - North Dakota

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Spot the Signs Infographic - kids

Additional Information for Parents and Teachers