Ask Amy: Secret vaping leaves neighbors gaping

Dear Amy: For over 15 years, we have lived next door to our wonderful neighbors.

We’re great friends with the parents and have been blessed to watch their three kids grow up.

We count all five of them as family. All of their children, now teenagers, are good kids and good students.

Over a year ago, we noticed that one of the teens had started vaping. We strongly suspect that the parents are unaware.

Our houses are close enough that we can see this young person vaping most evenings after dinner in one of their upstairs bathrooms (while leaving the shade open).

Now that the days are shorter, it’s even easier to see since this kid turns the lights on in the bathroom, opens a window, vapes, and blows the smoke out.

We know from personal experience what smoking can lead to and we know that today’s flavored vaping products are designed to attract kids.

We also know that both parents are both 100 percent anti-smoking.

We’re torn as to whether we should tell the parents about this, thereby ratting on this young person (who trusts and respects us); or, asking this kid to pull the shade down every night (in which case the kid will know we know what’s going on) which might inspire them to quit.

Our own adult children (in their 30s), home over Thanksgiving, reported that they noticed this teen vaping, and that they were appalled. Our adult child (whom this teen reveres) wondered if they should talk to the teen, but ultimately didn’t do so.

What do you think we should do?

— Concerned Friends or Nosy Neighbors?

Dear Concerned Neighbors: Surely you are not so removed from your own experience (when your kids were teens) that you’ve forgotten how important “the village” was to raising them?

Parents — especially close friends and neighbors — rely on one another to rat out the kids. It’s part of the deal. Underage drinking, sneaking out to a party, cutting school (been there, parented through all of that) — these are all examples of teen behavior that warrant a thoughtful, nonjudgmental, parent-to-parent report.

You’ve been watching this vaping for over a year.

Talking directly to the teen would force the vaping into the basement or the other side of the house, the parents would never learn about it, the teen would continue to vape, and would likely also avoid you for the next decade or so.

Nicotine is addictive and buying and possessing nicotine products is illegal under the age of 18. (Note that this young person could be vaping any number of non-nicotine products.)

Tell the parents, one time, and let them decide what to do. Even if they respond defensively to you — this is something they should know about.

Dear Amy: Our community workout center provides showers and locker rooms for our swimming pool. We have a small family locker area, but most youngsters come into either the men’s or women’s locker areas.

One woman insists on walking naked around the shower area and the locker area. She even stands naked in front of the mirror as she dries her hair.

Some of the members of our exercise classes have stopped using the locker room just so they don’t encounter this free spirit.

Is there a way to politely get her to cover up?

— Seen Too Much

Dear Seen Too Much: You could check with the management of your facility to see if they offer any guidelines or restrictions regarding nudity in the locker rooms (most likely, they do not).

If parents don’t want their children to be exposed to adult nudity (understandable), they should always use the family locker room.

You could try approaching this woman and asking, “Would you mind wearing a towel when children are here?” — but be prepared for her to refuse.

One issue all locker room users should be aware of is the possibility that anyone could be surreptitiously filmed while changing (or not changing).

Dear Amy: I worked in many county clerks’ offices, and I would see these bubbling young couples come in to apply for their marriage license.

In my heart I wished them well, but I also wanted them to see how those feelings can be superficial, and really getting to know your partner on a deep level is tremendously important.

It should be a law that no marriage license is issued until the parties have spent at least six hours as observers in Divorce Court.

— Tom in Springfield, Illinois

Dear Tom: I appreciate your innovative idea.

(You can email Amy Dickinson at [email protected] or send a letter to Ask Amy, P.O. Box 194, Freeville, NY 13068. You can also follow her on Twitter @askingamy or Facebook.)

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