It’s hard to miss the headlines about the recent outbreak of lung illness associated with the use of e-cigarette, or vaping, products. E-cigarettes are battery-powered devices that heat up liquid nicotine to generate aerosol that users inhale. As recently as September 6, 2019, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention posted this investigation notice: “CDC, U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA), state and local health departments, and other clinical and public health partners are investigating a multistate outbreak of severe pulmonary disease associated with e-cigarette product (devices, liquids, refill pods, and/or cartridges) use.” In addition, the CDC recommends that during this ongoing investigation, individuals should consider not using e-cigarettes. This holds especially true for teens and young adults.
Often marketed as a “safer” alternative to smoking traditional cigarettes, the popularity of vaping among teens has risen dramatically in recent years due to the ease of concealed use and perceived harmlessness, especially in comparison to cigarette smoking. According to data compiled by the National Center for Health Research, the percentage of teens who have tried e-cigarettes has increased from 5% to 19% over the last four years. Additionally, 1 in 4 students in 12th grade and 1 in 5 students in 10th grade have vaped within the past month.
Many school administrators around the country have reported that addressing the growing use of vaping by students is one of their top safety concerns for this school year. Recent studies showed more than 20 percent of high schoolers currently using electronic vaping products. The CDC is clear: “The use of e-cigarettes is unsafe for kids, teens, and young adults.” Most e-cigarettes contain nicotine. Nicotine is highly addictive and can harm adolescent brain development, which continues into the early to mid-20s. E-cigarettes can also contain other harmful substances besides nicotine.
The design, addictiveness, and student-friendly flavors make e-cigarettes increasingly popular. Not to mention, students are often misguided by peers, social media, and industry messaging that the act of vaping or the use of an e-cigarette is a healthy alternative to smoking – and in the opinion of health officials, it’s even worse!
The U.S. Office of the Surgeon General advises against use of e-cigarettes due to their high nicotine content and potentially harmful ingredients, including “ultrafine particles that can be inhaled deep into the lungs; flavorants such as diacetyl, a chemical linked to serious lung disease; volatile organic compounds; and heavy metals, such as nickel, tin, and lead.”
Officials are worried that the popularity with e-cigarettes among young adults will destroy the progress and effort made to reduce smoking across the country since the 1960s. Above all, it’s important to make sure your students understand all the risks and consequences that increase when vaping or using an e-cigarette. The enjoyment of vaping will never outweigh the consequences that follow.
The SafeSchools Online Training System includes a variety of expert-authored courses dedicated to helping you address the use of e-cigarettes, and other drugs, with your staff and students:
We also offer our SafeSchools Alert Tip Reporting System that allows students, staff, and parents to confidentially report safety concerns, including the use of alcohol, e-cigarettes, or other drugs, to your administration 24/7/365 via mobile app, text, phone, email, and website.
With preventative education, training, and preparedness, we hope that we can all work together to make this school year the safest on record.