PATERSON, NJ – Paterson Public Schools officials are continuing their aggressive initiatives against vaping, Superintendent Eileen Shafer announced to the Board of Education commissioners on Wednesday.

Part of their effort, she announced, is the launch of the new “Escape The Vape” campaign.

“We are taking aim against the misinformation and health hazards surrounding vaping. Vaping is more dangerous than smoking cigarettes, but too many people believe the opposite is true,” Shafer said. “We are going to make sure that our students and families know the facts and give them all the support we can to help everyone in Paterson Public Schools ‘Escape the Vape.’”   

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Laurel Olson, the district’s supervisor of student assistance programs, presented the campaign during the Wednesday meeting saying that it includes a page on the district’s website with vaping facts and information resources, and an art contest calling for student-created posters (by elementary students) and videos (by high school students) that are based on the campaign’s “Escape The Vape” theme. 

The efforts, launched earlier this year, came in response to a dramatic rise in vaping related illness, and deaths, across the country, and studies showing that the national crisis is getting worse. In August, there had been one reported vaping-related death in the country and 193 reported vaping-related illnesses. As of December 4, the statement said, those national statistics rose to 48 reported vaping-related deaths and 2,291 reported vaping-related illnesses. 

A district-wide anti-vaping committee, made up of district administrators, members of the clergy, as well as representatives of several other organizations, including the City of Paterson, Paterson Police Department, Paterson Coalition Against Substance Abuse (P-CASA), and the Paterson Education Fund was also set up.

The anti-vaping committee is working to incorporate the use of Aspire Counseling Services for students with multiple vape possession offenses and has listed future goals as pursuing grant opportunities, booking anti-vaping speakers, holding assembly programs, establishing student-led anti-vaping teams, and revising the district’s health curriculum by the next school year to include education about vaping.

A series of educational presentations was launched in October about the dangers of vaping. To date, presentations have been given to students, parents, school staff, religious leaders, instructional and personal assistants, and principals. Presentations have been scheduled for central office staff and supervisors.