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How One High School Is Handling the Teen Vaping Epidemic

Young teenage girls vaping with an electronic cigarette on a blanket in a park  

Almost anyone who has a teen is probably aware of the controversy surrounding teen vaping that has sprung up recently. The dangers of vaping have become a big topic in the news lately as reports of vaping-related issues have become more public. States like Michigan have enacted laws to ban the sale of flavored vaping products and many states have raised the legal age to purchase tobacco products to 21 years in response to what some are now calling the ‘vaping crisis.’

The effort to curb teen vaping is not just at the state level ⁠— schools are now taking measures to reduce vaping among students. A school in South Portland, Maine, recently banned vaping and the possession of an e-cigarette on school grounds. School officials are enforcing the ban by patrolling bathrooms and hallways, and confiscating the banned items when they are found. The school is also trying to help its students to find social activities that don’t involve vaping and are offering mental health and addiction counseling to students as well.

The Teen Vaping Epidemic

With the number of teens who are vaping being at an all-time high, there is now what is considered to be a teen vaping epidemic in the United States. It’s estimated that almost twice as many high school seniors vaped in 2018 compared to 2017.

The two-fold increase means that even more teens are being exposed to harmful chemicals that can lead to permanent damage and even death. Officials at every level of government are watching closely as hundreds of possible cases of pulmonary disease and disorders, as well as several deaths that may be linked to vaping,  have been reported. It’s still unknown whether the devastating effects of vaping on lungs are due to the chemicals that are vaped or from the process itself. However, researchers are looking for definitive answers in order to inform medical practice and public policy.

A huge issue in the vaping epidemic, particularly with teens and vaping, is the aggressive marketing to minors who are not aware of the risks of vaping. Juul Labs, a giant in the vaping industry, controls roughly three-quarters of the e-cigarette market and has been advertising its products as a safer smoking alternative.

Adolescent Nicotine Use and Future Addictions

The dangers of vaping are not just limited to immediate harm ⁠— consuming nicotine as a teen can lead to substance abuse in adolescence and adulthood. Research has shown that most people who have tried and who use addictive drugs began consuming alcohol or tobacco in their youth. Some have tried to discredit the theory that one substance can lead to another, more dangerous drug or substance as a “gateway”; however, the evidence says otherwise.

Researchers found that nicotine actually changes the structure of one’s DNA and enhances the body’s response to addictive substances, generally. Researchers who studied human subjects actually observed that among people who used cocaine, they were more likely to be dependent on the drug if they had a history of smoking. What does this mean? In the context of vaping, it means that it’s likely that the nicotine that teens are consuming through vaping could make them predisposed to addiction ⁠— a daunting prospect.

Anti-Vape Messaging and Student Support at South Portland High School

As public health officials, schools, parents and individuals come to grips with the vaping epidemic, there is hope for real progress. The anti-vaping campaign at South Portland High School, for example, has seen success. At first, school officers were constantly confiscating vaping devices and suspending students; however, the number of students in violation eventually started to drop. By 2018, far fewer students were caught with banned vapes and, according to one of the anti-vaping officers at the high school, no vaping devices have been taken away so far this school year.

Vaping laws for minors are an important piece that could limit supply. Looking forward, South Portland is taking advantage of federal grants designed to help communities combat youth substance abuse. It’s using most of the money to set up mental health services for teens. South Portland also set up a school club called SoPo Unite that acts as a teen support group. While these efforts are taking place at just one school, it’s very likely that other communities will follow suit. Addressing and preventing teen vaping can make a huge difference in a teen’s life ⁠— both now and in the future.

If your teen is struggling with nicotine addiction and a co-occurring substance use disorder, treatment programs are available. Contact Next Generation Village today to speak with a professional about our options geared specifically towards teens. Help is here; call today.

Sources:

Bellum, Sara. “Smoking: How it Primes the Brain for Addiction.” The National Institutes of Health Drug & Health Blog, January 24, 2012. Accessed October 16, 2019.

Vestal, Christine. “How One School Is Tackling the Youth Vaping Epidemic.” Stateline, September 23, 2019. Accessed October 16, 2019.

Truth Initiative. “E-cigarettes: Facts, stats and regulations.” July 19, 2019. Accessed October 16, 2019.

National Institute on Drug Abuse. “Teens and e-cigarettes.” Accessed October 16, 2019.

NPR News. “Michigan governor orders state ban on sale of flavored e-cigarettes.” September 4, 2019. Accessed October 16, 2019.

Raven, Kathleen. “Teen Vaping Linked to More Health Risks.” Yale Medicine. September 7, 2019. Accessed October 16, 2019.

Food and Drug Administration. “2018 NYTS Data: A Startling Rise in Youth E-cigarette Use.” Updated February 6, 2019. Accessed October 16, 2019.

CNN Wire. “The rate of teen vaping has doubled within two years, new research finds.” September 19, 2019. Accessed October 16, 2019.

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