Vaping Schools

In this April 16 file photo, a woman exhales while vaping from a Juul pen e-cigarette in Vancouver, Wash. Schools have been wrestling with how to balance discipline with treatment in their response to the soaring numbers of vaping students. Using e-cigarettes, often called vaping, has now overtaken smoking traditional cigarettes in popularity among students, says the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Last year, one in five U.S. high school students reported vaping the previous month, according to a CDC survey. 

Missouri has recently joined a number of other states in an effort to address the use of e-cigarettes or vaping products, especially by America’s youth.  

In a press conference Nov. 18, Gov. Mike Parson announced the launch of the state’s Clear the Air youth vaping awareness campaign to bring attention to the risks of using electronic cigarettes and vaping products.  

According to a press release, Parson signed Executive Order 19-18 directing the Departments of Health and Senior Services, Elementary and Secondary Education, and Public Safety “to use existing resources to develop a statewide campaign to educate, warn, and deter the use of vaping devices among Missouri’s youth.”

Efforts are being made in Pettis County to inform students and the entire population of the risks associated with the use of these products, according to Pettis County Health Center Health Educator Erica Elliott.

“As far as effects on youth who vape, use e-cigarettes, or Juul, we tend to use all three when discussing with youth because many see these as all three being different things even though they are all the same, there are many effects on their mind and body,” Elliott said. “E-cigarettes deliver nicotine quickly and at much higher concentrations than a traditional tobacco cigarette.

“Nicotine is known to be a highly addictive substance and exposure during adolescence can harm the developing brain as well as potentially prime the brain for other addictions,” she continued. “Using vapes can also affect the heart rate and raise a person’s blood pressure, which in turn increases the risk for heart attack and stroke.”

The Centers for Disease Control reports as of Nov. 20, 2,290 cases of e-cigarette or vaping product use associated lung injury have been reported to CDC from 49 states (all except Alaska), the District of Columbia, Puerto Rico and the U.S. Virgin Islands.

Forty-seven deaths have been confirmed in 25 states and the District of Columbia. Missouri has reported two deaths related to the use of the products.  

According to Elliott, there are a number of warning signs associated with the use of these products. Some may include:

• Irritability, restlessness, or jitters

• Trouble thinking clearly or concentration

• Frequent nose bleeds

• Intense cravings to vape

• Lightheaded, dizziness, or tremors

The risks are not limited to the user of the products but may pose a threat to those who are in contact with others who use the products.

“The aerosol released when vaping can irritate the eyes, lungs, and throat of the person smoking as well as anyone around them,” Elliott said. “With vape juices or pods, there is the potential for nicotine poisoning from swallowing, breathing, and absorption of the liquid through the skin or eyes.”

According to Missouri PTA President Susan Rupert in a statement from the Governor’s Office, “20% of Missouri students are now addicted to vaping. The educators and parents supporting these children need help addressing this epidemic.”

The Clear the Air campaign launched by Parson’s office is designed to “educate Missourians on the dangers associated with youth vaping by dispelling myths and providing facts about how the products and chemicals impact the health and brain development of our youth.”

Elliott noted the Pettis County Health Center has access to a variety of programs for youth in the schools to educate them on the dangers of vaping and e-cigarette use.

“I also have information for schools on programs that would be an alternative to suspension for those caught vaping at school as well as smoking cessation programs to help youth quit,” Elliott said. “In addition to all of that, I also facilitate for an after-school program at the Smith-Cotton High School that has a group of teens who have decided to put together an anti-vaping campaign for their school. They will be making posters and flyers to hang around the schools to raise awareness about the dangers of vaping.”

Over the past month, DHSS, DPS and DESE have worked together with partners from additional state departments and external agencies to learn more about the epidemic and how existing resources could be used for education on e-cigarette use, according to a statement from the governor’s office. 

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Education Reporter

Hope Lecchi is the education reporter for the Democrat, covering all things education in Sedalia and Pettis County, as well as providing general assignment and feature coverage. She can be reached at 660-530-0144.

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