With illnesses and deaths from vaping, school officials everywhere must take more action

February 12, 2020 — by Sandhya Sundaram

There have been 47 deaths and 2,290 incidents of reported lung conditions caused by vaping and e-cigarettes since June, according to the Center for Disease Control and Prevention, as of Nov. 21 . 

Experts have been trying to learn more about the puzzling condition, even referring to it as an “epidemic.” This has prompted concern and anger among parents, schools and families.

Products used by teens include knockoff vaporizers and cannabis pens. While Juul Labs was forced to remove many of its flavored pods from shelves, many teens are still victims to vaping, unaware of the chemical compounds and carcinogens within these products and how they can remain in the lungs and deteriorate them.

Since vaping is a relatively new method of delivering nicotine, originating 15 years ago, there has not been enough time or studies to completely comprehend its potential long-term hazards. As with smoking in previous generations, many teens may be inclined to try vaping without fully understanding the negative effects, including its highly addictive nature. 

Schools must take action to prevent vaping by giving students proper information in ways that appeal to teenagers. Perhaps having talks given by other teens or college students who have quit Juuling or been affected by their own Juuling or that of their family members or friends could send the message better than administrators. Punishments and consequences are no longer effective.

The new policy of administration referring students caught vaping to counselors instead of implementing an immediate punishment is a step in the right direction. However, more should be done to educate students and parents.

Having separate informational nights for vaping awareness attracts a certain crowd of parents — those who are somewhat educated and concerned about vaping. Incorporating these kinds of presentations into events that draw more parents, such as the annual parent nights for each grade or Back to School Night, would ensure that more can be informed, including those who are unaware.

The school has recently been placing posters in restrooms that state the harms of vaping, but most students are unlikely to give them a long enough glance. More effective would be a PowerPoints delivered by teachers or mandatory videos shown in class to accurately and fully inform students.

Although most teens must already know vaping is unhealthy, they may not be aware of recent news and specific effects. While the school can help, it is also up to the students themselves to make smarter choices. Many knockoff devices have been linked to the vaping illnesses, so students must be more careful of the sources of their products. And with recent bans on real products, fakes are widely in circulation.

A greater focus must be placed on the health of students by educating them about the recent illnesses and deaths, and providing them a path to quitting addictive habits. This can be done by placing a greater emphasis on the dangers of vaping in freshman Health classes and potentially as early as middle school. Vaping awareness could be introduced in middle school Health classes, since it is the most common drug compared to the others that are discussed in the curriculum.

With the decline of cigarette smoking over the past decade, health class curriculums should shift their focus accordingly. With vaping and specifically student Juuling on the rise, greater time and resources must be allocated combat those trends.

 Part of CASSY could be to help students who are addicted and show them options to a healthier lifestyle. And while to some degree, this service already exists, the school needs better publicize it and encourage students that are struggling to actually utilize it. 

Overall, if the focus shifts from excessively monitoring students to helping them, perhaps students will be more open minded. Monitoring and punishments just leads to students finding different times and locations to vape and doesn’t address the root of the problem.

Similar to the opioid crisis, tactics to address this vaping epidemic must continue to shift from a punishment model to education and rehabilitation.

 

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On March 27, members of the Air National Guard converted the Santa Clara County Convention Center to a temporary federal facility for about 250 coronavirus patients. The center is to house those who have tested positive for the virus, but don't require intensive in-hospital care. More information can be found through the local news. Photo courtesy of Randy Vazquez of the Bay Area News Group.

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