How can we deter vaping usage in Sparta?

As a parent and a board of education member, I have been focused on how to deter vaping usage in Sparta schools.  As vaping increases with our students so does our need to educate and prevent usage. 

The district is now going forward with adding vape detectors in bathrooms and locker rooms in Sparta High School. 

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Vape detectors are not the sole answer.   There must also be human supervision close by to make the detectors work in a school setting.  Some naysayers claim students will just find another place to vape.  This may be true, but they said that about cigarettes too.  It is an issue we cannot ignore.

Doing nothing is not an option in my opinion. The Halo vape detectors give us a tool to monitor areas that we cannot have cameras. These devices cannot listen in on students’ conversations.

According to the CDC, in 2018, more than 3.6 million U.S. middle and high school students used e-cigarettes in the past 30 days, including 4.9% of middle school students and 20.8% of high school students.  In my own very unscientific studies, the actual numbers are higher.

This epidemic among our students isn’t just a Sparta problem, it’s a national problem.  It is also an issue that is impacting students across all extracurricular interests.  Athletes, once thought to be adverse to smoking-like activities, are now as likely to vape as any other student.

It is also not just a high school problem.  Students in middle school and lower are experimenting with e-cigarettes.  The vape detectors in Sparta High School will hopefully help, only time will tell to what extent.  E-cigarettes can look like USB flash drives, pens, and other ordinary items which makes it easier than ever for students to hide their e-cigarettes in plain sight.

It is a myth that the vapor caused by e-cigarettes is simply water vapor.  Harmful substances in the vapor include nicotine, ultrafine particles, chemicals linked to lung disease, heavy metals, and other cancer causing agents. Vaping is harmful to both the user and those around him/her. 

Most E-cigarette devices contain nicotine and can also be used to dispense marijuana.  Long term effects are simply unknown at this time. 

What else can we do as a district?  Educate!  As a district we need to educate students and make the harmful effects of vaping a focus of curriculum; just as we have done with other health issues as they arose.

Given that our youngest students see adults and older siblings’ vape, we need to educate in an age appropriate way in our elementary schools.  We need to focus most heavily on prevention in the middle school since we know usage there is a problem as well. 

In addition to prevention education at the high school, something not often discussed is cessation education.  Our students addicted to vaping need a roadmap as to how best to quit.  

Technology alone is not the answer. We, as a school district, need to talk with our students and listen to them too.  Peer pressure is stronger than ever.  Curtailing vaping and any e-cigarette usage needs to be a focus of the district.

As a board of education member, I will continue to be a bridge between parents and administrators working to keep our students healthy and safe.  I look forward to continuing to serve our community with a focus on the students.

I am running for Sparta’s Board of Education with Kurt Morris and Niamh Grano.  Please follow our Facebook page.  We are #3, #4, and #5 on the ballot.

The above views are my own and do not reflect the views of the Sparta Board of Education.