SOMERS, N.Y. – The school district is urging parents to talk to their kids about the dangers of e-cigarettes after a student got sick after vaping.
According to Superintendent Dr. Raymond H. Blanch, the district was extremely concerned to learn Tuesday that two middle school students had been vaping on the bus on the way to school.
One of them vomited while at school and was taken to the hospital for observation. The student is back home, the district said.
Students had to stay put in their classrooms for 30 minutes while the ailing youngster was taken to the ambulance.
Somers educators have been painfully aware of the national epidemic of adolescent vaping, said Blanch.
He pointed to the recent outbreak “severe” vaping-related lung ailments, of which there are hundreds of possible cases spread over 33 states. Five people have reportedly died.
“Our children in Somers are not immune to this threat,” Blanch said.
The middle school plans to hold an assembly Thursday to address the incident itself, answer questions and concerns, and to tell students who to talk to if they see someone vaping or smoking.
"We are in the midst of a national youth vaping epidemic," SMS Principal Jeff Getman said in an email to parents Tuesday. "In fact, New York just became to first state to ban the sale of flavored e-cigarettes, effective immediately. We must work together as a community to help our children make safe, healthy choices. Please talk to your children about the danger of vaping and let them ask any questions they might have."
Tobacco remains a concern.
New York has raised the legal smoking age to 21 from 18. The new law takes effect on Nov. 13, and applies to the sales of regular tobacco products, e-cigarettes, and vaping devices.
In light of the seriousness of the reported illnesses, New York isn’t willing to wait for the federal government to act, said Gov. Andrew Cuomo who issued an emergency directive Sunday to temporarily ban all flavored e-cigarette products, with the exception of menthol. It was approved Tuesday by state health officials.
Retailers have two weeks to get the products off their shelves. The ban lasts for 90 days and can be renewed.
Violators face fines of up to $2,000.
"It is undeniable that vaping companies are deliberately using flavors like bubblegum, Captain Crunch and cotton candy to get young people hooked on e-cigarettes - it's a public health crisis and it ends today," Cuomo said Tuesday.
According to an educational flier distributed by the Student Assistance Services Corporation and sent to Somers parents by the district, many young people are using e-cigarettes to vape marijuana concentrates.
A 2018 national study published in the Journal of the American Medical Association Pediatrics found that nearly 1 in 11 U.S. students has used marijuana in electronic cigarettes.
New York is the first state to implement a ban on flavored e-cigarettes. Michigan is poised to take similar action.
Somers has been on top of teen vaping ever since the issue reared its ugly head.
It installed vaping detectors in bathrooms, added security cameras at both its campuses, and hired monitors to patrol outside bathrooms. It also has a full-time student assistance counselor on staff at the high school. Lessons about vaping’s dangers, as well as smoking and substance abuse, are taught in class.
Funding for these measures comes from its Drug Free Communities grant.
It has brought in experts to speak at community seminars and workshops.
Even students are getting into the act. A group of high school volunteers is working with administrators to come up with ways to promote healthy lifestyles.
The district can’t do it without parents’ help, Blanch said.
“We need to work as a community to fight this epidemic," Blanch said. "Please talk to your children about what vaping can do to their bodies, and how it can affect their futures."