Vaping 2.0: The New Look of Nicotine Addiction!
Dear Parents, Guardians, and Community Members,
This month I am choosing to focus this newsletter on vaping! If you have read recent headlines in the news - and thought that our regional school district isn’t experiencing vaping as an issue, that is simply not the case. If through sharing information and being vigilant on this topic together as parent and school communities, we can prevent just one young person from vaping, our efforts are worth it. For instance….
Did You Know?
According to the Commonwealth of Massachusetts website, “Current use of electronic nicotine delivery products (e-cigarettes and other vaping devices) by Massachusetts high school youth was 20% in 2017. And 41% of high school students reported ever using e-cigarettes. Current use of electronic cigarettes is almost three times greater than current use of cigarettes, cigars, or smokeless tobacco combined (11.4%)," Youth Risk Behavior Survey 2017).
"In 2017, 9.9% of middle school students had ever-tried e-cigarettes. Use of electronic nicotine delivery products was almost two times greater than ever-use of cigarettes, cigars, or smokeless tobacco combined (5.8%)," (MA Youth Health Survey 2017). To learn more about vaping and the dangers related to vaping in Massachusetts, CLICK HERE.
What is causing a certain 'attraction' for our young people towards vaping is that there is a strong perception among teens that vaping is 'harmless.' "That e-cigarettes are just flavored water vapor; and that there are no harmful or addictive substances in e-cigarettes like there are in regular cigarettes with nicotine, tar, and the other myriad of chemicals we are all too familiar with in traditional smoking. The bottom line is that our young people seem to think that vaping is safe. The facts, however, demonstrate very clearly that this perception is not accurate. Here are just a few of those facts:
- Most (95%) E-cigarettes contain nicotine. Nicotine is harmful to the developing brains of adolescents whose brains continue to develop well into their early 20's. Nicotine can negatively impact memory and concentration. Finally, Nicotine is also addictive so once a teen begins vaping, it is hard to stop.
- Vaping increases exposure to harmful chemicals. The specific chemical makeup of e-cigarettes varies greatly and there is little to no oversight to ensure harmful chemicals are not contained within the vapors themselves. Random testing of e-cigarettes has found heavy metals in the vapor ranging from nickel to tin and even lead. The long-term effects of vaping on the human body are not known.
- Many e-cigarettes use Diacetyl as a flavoring chemical in their products. Diacetyl is a chemical linked to serious lung disease.
- Recent research has shown that adolescent vaping acts as a 'gateway' to smoking of tobacco and drugs" (Perry, January 3, 2020).
So how did vaping come about and where did this message of harmlessness come from? E-cigarettes were initially created for current smokers as an alternative to smoking by "Big Tobacco" companies who were losing money as we became more clear about just how dangerous tobacco is. When a smoker moves from smoking tobacco-based cigarettes which contain more than 599 deadly chemicals to e-cigarettes, there is clearly a benefit. But this benefit is only for those that are already smoking. That doesn't mean e-cigarettes are safe, they are simply less deadly than cigarettes, but somehow this message of harmlessness has gotten out and is most prevalent among teens. Many people believe that companies who make e-cigarettes are specifically marketing to teens to send this message. "Here's a cool way to smoke that doesn't harm you like tobacco does." This is simply false and a message that many believe is being spread to make a profit on the backs of our unsuspecting teenagers. Did you know that Altria, the company that owns Marlborough, is the largest investor in JUUL, the largest manufacturer of e-cigarettes? Not a coincidence!
So what are we doing in our schools to try and combat this false message of harmlessness? Our policies and procedures forbid the use of e-cigarettes in any school facility, on school grounds, on school buses or during school-sponsored functions. We are using time during assemblies for all Knox Trail MS and David Prouty HS students to talk about vaping with our professional staff. We are using time during our health classes at KTMS and DPHS to talk about and inform children on this important topic. Our social workers/school adjustment counselors, and school guidance counselors are working hand in hand with our school resource officer - to talk with students within each of our schools on this important topic and to work with individual students or small groups of students who may be having direct problems with vaping in grades 5-8.
Overall, we are working hard to educate our students about the harmfulness associated with vaping, but we need your help! We need parents - all parents - to also have these difficult conversations with children. Below are just a few resources that parents and families might find helpful in talking with their children and in learning more about the harms of e-cigarettes and vaping:
Now I cannot take credit for much of the facts listed above, a colleague in another state produced the above information. And for that, I thank Heather Perry, profusely, for her eloquence and articulation of the issue of vaping. As a matter of fact, her recent blog helped me realize that this issue is an epidemic for our youth - nationally - not just locally, regionally, or Commonwealth-wide… And as she noted in her blog last month, “These resources (listed above) are just starting places for an ongoing conversation that we all need to have with our children regarding these very harmful products.”
With that said, please know that the Spencer-East Brookfield Regional School District and its schools will continue to do what we can to help educate our young people on the dangers of vaping. And we welcome any feedback or suggestions you may have to support this ongoing conversation. Further, please know we are here to support you having these conversations with children, so please reach out to your child’s school if you have questions. In closing, thank you for your continued partnership and support of the Spencer-East Brookfield Regional School District!! #ChooseSEBRSD #Progress #Unity #Knowledge
Paul S Haughey, Ed.D.
Superintendent of Schools
Note: Special thanks to Heather Perry, Superintendent of Schools in Gorham, Maine who wrote an excellent blog that I had to share with others and pay forward. Much of this month’s newsletter comes from her work and her advocacy.