Lancer Letter: Vaping and e-cigarettes — the facts along with their impact on students and education

Category:  Opinions
Friday, November 1st, 2019 at 11:50 AM

Recently, there has been a great deal of reporting in the news over the vaping epidemic. Originally, I wrote and published this week’s Lancer Letter back in April before it was big news. I wanted to share the information again in regard to how it is impacting our schools.

This week, I’d like to touch on a topic that presents a serious danger to our children. If at the end of this letter you feel you were pretty naive about the topic, don’t feel bad. Up until I educated myself a few weeks ago, I was pretty unclear on it. I’m talking about this new phenomena called vaping.

Vaping is done with electronic cigarettes. An e-cigarette is an electronic device that heats a liquid and produces an aerosol that is inhaled. They come in all shapes and sizes and have some type of battery to power them. Some look like computer flash drives, pens, or other everyday items.

The original intent of e-cigarettes was to help people gradually quit smoking, but our busy little capitalists have turned it into something worse than smoking.

The e-cigarette heats some type of liquid. JUUL is a brand name that provides a “pod,” which contains that liquid. According to the Center for Disease Control (CDC), all JUUL pods contain a high level of nicotine. Some have as much nicotine as a pack of 20 regular cigarettes. Students are also purchasing “juice” from suppliers online who may be unregulated. Users may not know what is really in that “juice” and are trusting a manufacturer that may not be regulated.

The liquid in these pods may be flavored and scented to smell pleasant, like vanilla or some fruity flavor. So while all the adult noses in schools can smell tobacco and know something bad is happening, the array of odors from these devices are not as actionable.

According to the CDC:
— Scientists are still learning about the long-term effects of e-cigarettes.
— Some of the ingredients in e-cigarettes can be harmful to lungs in the long term.
— Even if something is safe to eat, it may not be safe to inhale.
— e-cigarette batteries have caused fires.
— Children and adults have been poisoned by swallowing, breathing or absorbing e-cig liquid through skin or eyes.

Now here’s the kicker: students have taken to putting their own ingredients into a JUUL pod. Once they’ve purchased the pod, they add things like THC (the psychoactive ingredient in marijuana) or illegal drugs to the liquid. They can even add something as simple as cough syrup. I hope the alarm bells are going off in your head as you realize how dangerous the experimentation can be when kids are putting all kinds of stuff into their lungs for which they have no idea what exactly will happen with it. Our school resource officer is field testing the pods we confiscate from students and is finding more than nicotine.

According to the Office of the Surgeon General: “E-cigarettes entered the U.S. marketplace around 2007, and since 2014, they have been the most commonly used tobacco product among U.S. youth. E-cigarette use among U.S. middle and high school students increased 900% during 2011-2015, before declining for the first time during 2015-2017. However, current e-cigarette use increased 78% among high school students during the past year, from 11.7% in 2017 to 20.8% in 2018. In 2018, more than 3.6 million U.S. youth, including 1 in 5 high school students and 1 in 20 middle school students, currently use e-cigarettes.”

Our principals will tell you that vaping has reached epidemic proportions. At a recent Erie County superintendent’s meeting, it was confirmed that this is a plague hitting all schools. We have a new technology that can addict a whole new generation to nicotine and make them smell good while doing it! We also have a technology that has given a new way to use harmful and illegal drugs.

This technology is new enough that our laws are behind in keeping up with it. We have recently changed our tobacco policy to prohibit these e-cigarette devices and all derivatives thereof. There is currently legislation being considered in Harrisburg to treat vaping products like tobacco.

I strongly urge parents and grandparents to educate themselves about this topic. The Surgeon General and CDC has a great deal of information available. If you simply type “dangers of vaping” into a search engine, you will find a wealth of information.

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