Vaping at schools on the rise; coalition aims to expose dangers of tobacco use

Vaping at schools on the rise; coalition aims to expose dangers of tobacco use

Vaping at schools on the rise; coalition aims to expose dangers of tobacco use

Tobacco use among adolescents is on the rise again, but it looks considerably different than it has in the past. Instead of finding a pack of cigarettes, parents or teachers might see a device that looks like a USB flash drive and not think twice. A thin, plastic, unassuming thing like that can’t be as harmful as a cigarette, right? Vaping and the use of other e-cigarettes has become very popular amid students of Lowry High School and the Winnemucca Junior High, according to Humboldt County’s Frontier Community Coalition (FCC) Coordinator Brooke Esquibel. Her coalition is trying to raise awareness to help schools intercede and educate about drugs and alcohol, as well as implement smoking prevention and cessation programs in local schools. 

A vape is essentially an electronic cigarette that heats nicotine or THC producing an aerosol that is then inhaled. The vapor substance is likely to contain not only highly-addictive nicotine, but hordes of other chemicals that are extremely harmful.

 They are frequently seen in fruity flavors that appeal to juveniles, and a single cartridge can contain the same amount of nicotine as 20 regular cigarettes, according to the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA). With chemically enhanced flavors and acute potency, vaping among youths—more than 3.6 million as of 2020—is a public health crisis, according to the FDA. 

As a mother of seven, Esquibel is passionate about the coalition’s goals to stop adolescent drug and alcohol use. She expressed that kids are simply unaware of the facts, and are victims of the glamorization of vaping on social media and TV.  

“It’s just really important for people to know that the media and these big tobacco companies are targeting our youth,” said Esquibel.

Esquibel is piloting an interactive smoking prevention program as an alternative to suspension at the junior high school, set to go by the end of this month. 

“The junior high doesn’t have a cessation program, so if you get caught vaping you get suspended,” she said. 

Esquibel reported that the leadership class at the junior high will be among the first students to complete the program so the school and coalition can get appropriate feedback and hopefully foster peer-to-peer education. 

“A lot of the programs out there are very childish, but this one isn’t,” she assured. 

The FCC also plans to fund at least two vape-detectors—costing approximately $1,000 each— to go in a bathroom at the junior high and a bathroom at the high school according to Esquibel.

Like a smoke detector, a vape detector is an innocuous device that is easily fixed in any location and will immediately alert when vapor is present, Esquibel explained.  The coalition is currently waiting to hear back about grant funding approval, according to Esquibel, which would fund even more vape-detectors. Their initiative hopes to not only educate kids about the harmful effects of using tobacco and stop it all together, but to reasonably and responsibly help youth who want to quit, but do not know how. 

The coalition endorses My Life, My Quit, a confidential program for youth who want to stop smoking. Teens can easily and privately seek help by texting “Start My Quit” to 36072 or calling 855-891-9989.