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While vapes and e-cigarettes have been in existence for more than a decade, it was not until some years ago that their use started increasing at an alarming rate, especially among kids. Vaping has become an epidemic in K-12 schools in the US. As educators, it can be stressful to try and focus on teaching while knowing this is a distracting and troubling event regularly occurring in your schools.

Vaping Epidemic

A study released from the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) and the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) found that 3.08 million (11.3%) U.S. middle and high school students reported current (past 30-day) use of any tobacco product in 2022, which includes 2.51 million (16.5%) high school students and 530,000 (4.5%) middle school students.

According to this same study here are the most commonly used types of devices and brands: 

Type of Device  

  • The most commonly used device among current users was disposables (55.3%), followed by prefilled/refillable pods or cartridges (25.2%).  

Commonly Used Brands  

  • Current users reported their usual brands as: Puff Bar (14.5%), Vuse (12.5%), Hyde (5.5%) and SMOK (4%).

Why the Sudden Increase?

The rise in the number of students vaping is attributable to several things.

  1. For starters, the devices are very small and are easy to conceal in pockets or sleeves. For instance, the most popular current brand Puff Bar resembles a USB drive. While there was a ban by the FDA on non-disposable devices, all it did was lead to the production of disposable devices to replace them on the shelves. The FDA can’t keep up with the influx of production of disposable vapes, which are even easier to use and then dispose of the ‘evidence.’
  2. The e-cigarettes usually come with sweet scents and flavorings which are attractive to teens. 

Social Media Influence On Vaping Among Kids

Perhaps the largest reason for the increase in vaping follows the common tale of peer pressure. The glamorous images on social media of kids vaping in schools have led to many kids wanting to try e-cigarettes. The glorification of vaping in society, especially on social media is a problem. The kids see that “everyone” is doing it, it looks cool, and tastes good. They are completely unaware of the risks involved, especially long-term.

Experts and health advocates are worried that history is about to repeat itself with nicotine addiction among youths. Several years ago, the US achieved a record low number of youth smoking traditional cigarettes, and the trend seemed to head in that direction. With the glorification of vaping, that changed.  We are creating a generation that is again getting highly addicted to nicotine.ma

Kids vaping in schools has become a thorn in the flesh for many schools across the US. Teachers, administrators, parents, and health practitioners are scrambling to address it before it becomes more serious, but it isn’t easy. Federal officials and other stakeholders are evaluating their options in the fight against the use of e-cigarettes by teens. 

Why Everyone Should Be Concerned About Kids Vaping

Vaping brands market their e-cigarettes as a healthier alternative to smoking cigarettes. While this is the case, “healthier” does NOT mean “healthy.” Vaping is still relatively new, and the long-term effects are not yet known. Current research has suggested vaping still poses many of the same risks that smoking does. 

Health Risks of Teen Vaping

Vaping involves inhaling aerosolized substances through an electronic device, which has been associated with several health risks, particularly among teens. Here are some of the key health risks:

  • Addiction to Nicotine: Vaping products contain nicotine, which is highly addictive. Nicotine can lead to dependence and can also act as a gateway to smoking traditional cigarettes.
  • Impact on Brain Development: Adolescence is a critical period for brain development, and exposure to nicotine during this time can have long-term effects on attention, learning, and memory.
  • Respiratory Problems: Vaping can cause irritation in the lungs and airways, leading to coughing, wheezing, and shortness of breath. In severe cases, it can lead to a condition called “vaping-associated lung injury” or VALI.
  • Cardiovascular Issues: Vaping has been linked to an increased risk of heart problems, including an increased heart rate, elevated blood pressure, and an increased risk of heart attacks.
  • Chemical Exposure: The aerosol produced by vaping contains harmful substances such as formaldehyde, acrolein, and acetaldehyde, which can damage the respiratory system and other organs.
  • Popcorn Lung: Some e-liquids contain diacetyl, a chemical that can cause bronchiolitis obliterans or “popcorn lung,” a serious and irreversible lung disease.
  • Unknown Long-Term Effects: Vaping is a relatively new phenomenon, and the long-term health effects are not yet fully understood. It may take years or even decades to comprehend the full scope of vaping’s impact on health.
  • Social and Behavioral Impact: Vaping can lead to changes in social behavior, and teens who vape may be more likely to engage in other risky behaviors.
  • Mental Health: Use of nicotine has been found to increase anxiety, depression and stress, not help it as the public may believe.
  • Substance Abuse: Vaping among teens may increase the risk of experimentation with other substances.

How to Stop Kids from Vaping in Schools

Stopping kids from vaping in schools requires a comprehensive approach involving education, communication, support, and enforcement. As an educator, you play a crucial role in shaping the behavior of your students. 

Here’s a guide to help you address the issue of vaping in schools:

  1. Educate Yourself: Understand the risks and consequences of vaping so that you can effectively communicate with your students about the dangers involved.
  2. Stay Informed: Be aware of the latest trends and products related to vaping, as the landscape of vaping devices and substances can change rapidly.
  3. Raise Awareness: Conduct classroom discussions about the harmful effects of vaping on health, academic performance, and overall well-being. Use credible sources and real-life examples to emphasize the consequences.
  4. Involve Parents: Engage parents in the conversation by holding informational sessions, sending newsletters, or organizing workshops on vaping and its impact on teenagers.
  5. Establish a No-Tolerance Policy: Work with your school administration to implement a strict no-tolerance policy regarding vaping on school premises. Enforce clear consequences for those caught vaping.
  6. Create a Positive School Culture: Foster a supportive and caring environment where students feel encouraged to make healthy choices and resist peer pressure.
  7. Promote Healthy Activities: Organize extracurricular activities and events that promote a healthy lifestyle, such as sports, clubs, and wellness programs.
  8. Peer Education Programs: Empower students to be part of the solution by involving them in peer education programs. Encourage them to speak out against vaping and share information with their peers.
  9. Anonymous Reporting System: Set up an anonymous reporting system where students can report instances of vaping without fear of retaliation.
  10. Monitor Hotspots: Identify areas where students might be more likely to vape, such as restrooms or secluded spots, and increase supervision in those areas. Using a digital hall pass tool can give you insights into what these hotspots are. 
  11. Professional Development: Advocate for professional development opportunities for teachers and staff to address vaping prevention and intervention strategies effectively.
  12. Celebrate Successes: Acknowledge and celebrate efforts made by students who choose to avoid vaping or overcome addiction.
  13. Connect with Support Organizations: Partner with local health organizations or anti-vaping campaigns to bring more resources and awareness to your school.
  14. Seek Help for Addicted Students: If you suspect a student is addicted to vaping, refer them to the appropriate counseling or support services.

Tackling the issue of vaping in schools requires a collective effort from teachers, parents, administrators, and the community as a whole. By working together and staying proactive, you can create a healthier and safer environment for your students.

How Using Digital Hall Pass Can Help Stop Vaping

A Digital Hall Pass can be a vital tool in helping address the issue of vaping in schools. While it may not directly stop vaping, it can contribute to a comprehensive approach to discourage vaping and promote a healthier school environment. Here’s how it can be beneficial:

Improved Monitoring: A digital hall pass platform tracks when students leave and return to the classroom or other locations on campus. By requiring students to check in and out using digital pass, school staff can have better visibility of student whereabouts. This can deter students from sneaking off to secluded areas to vape.

Real-time Alerts: The digital pass platform can show school administrators or staff if a student spends an unusually long time outside the classroom or in a specific location. This can help identify potential vaping hotspots and allow staff to investigate and intervene.

Establishing Restricted Zones: Schools can use the digital pass system to designate certain areas as restricted zones where students are not allowed during school hours. 

Data Collection and Analysis: The platform collects data on student movement patterns and trends. School administrators can use this data to identify problem areas, assess the effectiveness of anti-vaping measures, and tailor interventions accordingly.

Parental Involvement: The platform can allow staff to message parents to keep them in the loop. This can encourage parental involvement in addressing any vaping-related issues and reinforce the message about the school’s commitment to student health and safety.

While a Digital Hall Pass platform can contribute to a comprehensive approach to tackle vaping in schools, it is essential to combine it with other strategies. These strategies may include education and awareness campaigns about the dangers of vaping, providing resources and support for students who want to quit vaping, fostering a positive school environment, and implementing clear and consistent consequences for vaping violations. Ultimately, addressing vaping in schools requires collaboration among school staff, parents, and students to create a healthy and supportive learning environment.

It Will Take A Community

Eradicating kids vaping in schools requires a collaborative effort from the entire community, including teachers, parents, school administrators, health professionals, law enforcement, and local organizations. So, although the weight of this epidemic does not fall strictly on educators, you have the platform and opportunity to lead the way in diminishing vaping in schools. 

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