Perspective on Vaping/E-Cigarettes

Based on conversations with colleagues, teachers, parents, and students, vaping (use of e-cigarettes) is a relevant issue that is somewhat of an unknown to many.  Questions have come up like:  How do we warn students of the dangers?  Is it safe for my child to do it?  Are they vaping in class?  Why isn't it a healthier alternative to cigarettes?  This blog entry hopes to serve as one small piece of education on the topic and a venue to share different perspectives on the topic.

High School Administration Perspective
Since the winter break administration has seen an uptick in student possession and use of e-cigarettes/vapes/Juuls.  (A Juul is a specific brand of e-cigarette that seems to be popular with students).  It is really important to educate anyone who is willing to listen to the dangers of e-cigarettes/vapes/Juuls.  We have and will take steps to further support our students in making healthy decisions.  Just a few of the steps we have taken or plan to take are:  individually working with staff and students to educate them on the topic of vaping; this includes a presentation given to all faculty at the last faculty meeting, the Physical Education department addressing the dangers of addictive behaviors and the marketing of dangerous products to students, and advisories having focused discussions on the dangers of e-cigarettes/vapes/Juuls.

From an administrative perspective, it is also important to know the rules with regards to vaping.  Last year the high school updated the chemical health policies to reflect the use/possession of e-cigarettes.  The possession/use of an e-cigarette is a chemical health violation.  This comes with disciplinary and MIAA sanctions.  (Student Handbook pages 42, 49 and 54).  Things that students work so hard for can be affected by the decision to vape.  If a violation occurs, students are provided support via their counselors and the school's social workers to make healthier and safer decisions in the future.

While the conversation and education has just begun, our promise is that the conversation and education will continue.  Our biggest concern as an administrative team is around the health and safety of our students.

High School Resource Officer Perspective
School Resource Officer, Detective Keith Campbell, felt it is important to be aware of the following facts about e-cigarettes/vaping:

1. There is availability both in stores and online; the age verification online can be quite loose.
2. There are high levels of nicotine and other carcinogens.
3. The use or possession of an e-cigarette constitutes an MIAA violation for chemical health.
4. An e-cigarette is harder to discover based on size and lack of odor.
5. An e-cigarette can be manipulated to burn hash oil and marijuana by product.

Health and Physical Education Perspective
The Health and Physical Education Directior, David James, recently shared his thoughts and the department's approach to the issue:
"In 9th Grade Fitness for Living, that's the technical name for 9th Grade Physical Education and Health, we cover avoiding risks from harmful habits and drug education.  We try to stay up to date with current trends in those topics.

Vaping and/or e-cigarettes are on the forefront of concerning topics.  Just because it's legal, it's still a drug, and it's addictive.  Sadly, they are marketed by big companies who care mostly about making money.  They have a technical aspect like a USB charging port, they light up as well, and they use flavors that are kid-friendly.  All of these are lures to get first-time users hooked to the addictive properties of nicotine.

Research so far has shown that smokers cough now turns into vapers cough, the liquid used has toxic metals, and use causes impaired wound healing.  Throughout Physical Education and Health we encourage students and adults to make healthier long-term choices that include:  exercise, meditation, yoga, and balanced food plans."

High School Health Office Perspective
"There has been a rise in the popularity of electronic cigarettes (vapes) among teens.  The electronic cigarette was created for the adult habitual smoker with the pitch that it was healthier than smoking cigarettes.  Companies are marketing these products as healthy and with this marketing, they are pitching to the adolescent "cool factor".  Vapes are electronic devices that heat a liquid into a vapor which is then inhaled.  The liquid or "juice" comes in a wide variety of flavors that appeal to youth.  Often the liquid is infused with nicotine.  It is difficult for users to know what is in the product as some are marketed as zero percent nicotine but have been found to contain nicotine.  Vapes can also be used as a device to deliver THC, the psychoactive component of marijuana.  These devices can resemble common items such as pens or USB flash drives and appear very discrete.  The ability to use these devices quickly, without detection and with very little residual odor is appealing to teens.  A popular e-cigarette brand is the Juul product and teens use the term "juuling" when referring to vaping.

Teens may try electronic cigarettes/vaporizers/juuling because they think it is safe.  There is little known about the overall health impacts of vaping as there has been no long-term scientific studies.  Most vapes contain and emit potentially toxic chemicals such as diacetyl, a chemical linked to a serious lung disease known as popcorn lung and formaldehyde, a known carcinogen.  A single Juul pod contains the nicotine equivalent of a pack of cigarettes.  Research has shown that nicotine is an addictive drug and can harm the developing adolescent brain.  Nicotine effects on the teen brain can result in attention and learning issues, lower impulse control and nicotine dependence.  Nicotine containing refill cartridges can cause acute toxicity and possible death if consumed orally."

For me, the best way we can help our students is to have a conversation with them.  Taking time in and out of school to talk with your son, daughter, or student about the choices they are making will go a long way.  Students will make mistakes.  If we all approach students mistakes in a supportive and collaborative way, we will be sure to foster the type of student and human being we strive for them to be. 

                    Pete Cavanaugh and the Administrative Team


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