Strathmore High School Principal Diane Rankin arranged a presentation to local parents about the dangers of Vaping with Prevention Specialists from Tulare County Office of Education CHOICES program, Harmony Magnet Academy Principal Jeff Brown, and other local school administrators.
About 30 people, quite a few who were non-English speakers, attended the Vaping Prevention, Intervention, and Education seminar given on Thursday at Harmony Magnet Academy’s multipurpose room.
TCOE Prevention Specialists K.C. Pearce and Jordan Arnold gave the presentation and explained what a Vape is, why students are doing it, what the health risks are, and what parents, teachers, and administrators need to look for to detect vaping.
“You’ve probably heard how dangerous vaping is,” said Brown, as he welcomed parents, local principals, and other administrators. “This is extremely important and TCOE is giving presentations to schools all over Tulare County.”
“It is very important to educate parents as well as administrators about the dangers of vaping,” said Pearce, “TCOE is giving presentations to schools all over Tulare County, in 33 school districts, and targeting 5th graders through high schools.”
He gave a powerpoint presentation showing all the gadgets used for vaping, and there was actually a display cabinet, as well as paperwork parents could look at that showed all the various types of devices used for vaping.
From the Center for Disease Control and Prevention website (CDC) using an e-cigarette is commonly called vaping.
Vaping devices often imitate other things, Pearce explained, “because the students know they shouldn’t be vaping.” And students are also learning where and how to exhale to limit detection of the vape cloud, so there’s little to no detection.
But students mainly vape because peer pressure: 11.4 of high school students, and 3.3 percent of junior high students vape. They;re vaping highly concentrated tobacco, or highly concentrated marijuana, and according to the CDC, two-thirds of JUUL users aged 15 – 24 don’t know JUUL always contains nicotine.
E-cigarettes, or vaping is an aerosol, not a vapor. It’s an aerosol, with a propellant that sticks to the lungs, and “like hairspray” it adheres, causing damage to the airways and lungs.
Vaping devices work by heating a liquid to produce an aerosol that users inhale into their lungs.
The liquid can contain nicotine, tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) and cannabinoid (CBD) oils, and other substances, flavorings, and additives. THC is the mind-altering compound of marijuana that produces the “high.”
Vaping health risks are “Wet Lung” which causes respiratory failure. There’s also “Popcorn Lung” which damages the airways causing shortness of breath, and vaping stunts brain development, harming the frontal lobe, and rewiring teenagers brains toward chemical addiction.
Besides these considerable health risks, vape devices can heat up to 480 degrees, and can explode, with people suffering 2nd and 3rd degree burns.
More than 1500 e-cigarette devices have exploded since 2015 in the U.S.
The most common vaping device is JUUL, which is owned by Altria, previously Phillip Morris which owns a 35 percent stake in Juul, which is marketing the vaping products with more than 15,000 flavors, which kids, students like. Flavors like candy, like Skittles or sodas, and other flavors.
All JUUL e-cigarettes have a high level of nicotine. According to the manufacturer, a single JUUL pod contains as much nicotine as a pack of 20 cigarettes.
JUUL is one of a few e-cigarettes that use nicotine salts, which allow particularly high levels of nicotine to be inhaled more easily and with less irritation than the free-base nicotine that has traditionally been used in tobacco products, including e-cigarettes.
TCOE took a vaping survey of 15,000 students in Tulare County and the results were sobering.
83 percent thought vaping was safe, not harmful
3 percent or less had smoked cigarettes/ Never smoked
46 percent of 7th - 12th graders had used a vaping device
Students vape because of the flavors, officials said. And the vaping devices can be easily hidden, or look like a piece of electronic equipment — a cell phone case, a Sharpie pen, a USB flash drive, even colored pencils, or a lipstick case.
And vaping devices are easily hidden in plain sight.
Pearce described a vaping device that looked like an apple watch, with a device hidden in it. There are even soda cans, with partial tops where the device can be stored. The devices are small and can resemble normal electronics.
He said the devices are easy to acquire, over the internet with a credit card, and using social media. But steps are being taken to regulate the sales.
But youth are finding ways to vape. And vaping isn’t only highly concentrated tobacco. It can also be highly concentrated marijuana, with an 80 to 90 percent potency.
Along with the concentrated marijuana, butane is used as the propellant. And with the high concentration, Pearce explained this is not the “Hippie” marijuana from the 1960’s.
Students are using “Hash oil” in the vape pods and devices that deliver concentrated THC.
The danger is in counterfeit “Dank Vapes” which were among the products linked to lung illnesses. And the quality of the content in the vape devices.
There are legal and illegal cutting agents used.
There are known carcinogens used in vaping devices.
Secondhand vaping is also dangerous, like second hand smoke, and it can affect other people, pets, fabrics in the home, and air quality.
There have been two deaths related to vaping in the Central Valley, said Pearce, and 60 nationwide. Vitamin E Acetate has been found to be the chemical added that has been poisoning people. According to the CDC, scientists are still learning about the long-term health effects of e-cigarettes.
During the presentation, and after parents asked questions, such as:
“How would a parent know if their child is using a vaping device?
Pearce said, “Look for mood swings, and if your child needs more personal time. Check and smell for flavors, and look for devices.” He suggested the parent contact TCOE CHOICES Manager Tony Cavanaugh who could help them with information.
Here’s what to look for if you think your child or someone is vaping:
A closed fist, or little to no hand movement. Look for an inhale without an exhale. Ab-normal breathing. Breathing out downward, or to the side. Or the vapor going into their own shirt, a cloth or a bag. And really look at their charging devices.
Someone in the audience asked about a person who’s using CBC Cannabis.
Another person asked who’s more at risk, the person vaping, or the person breathing second hand smoke?
“The biggest eye opener to students or anyone is when we describe how concentrated these chemicals are in these vaping devices.” Pearce said.
Pearce spoke about how TCOE is giving the CHOICES Prevention and Education presentation all over Tulare County.
Brown thanked Rankin for putting the presentation together for parents and administrators in Strathmore, and he said, “We’d like to do this again and educate our community.”
“I’m sad that there were not more parents here,” said parent Staci Veller, in the audience, “I’m afraid the vaping problem is going to get worse if parents aren’t educated, they can’t keep their kids safe.”
Jason Pommier, Porterville Unified School District, Public Information Officer, said, “This is about teaching life coping skills. We are aware of the vaping issue and want to be proactive. These important issues affect everyone in the community and we will continue to have these types of educational sessions both at PUSD and in the community.”
“I am very thankful for TCOE and PUSD,” said Brown, “The support they provide us and the opportunity to have this CHOICES program making our community more aware of the dangers of vaping, particularly in our students.”
“Tonight was about empowering parents,” said Rankin, “and helping educate them about vaping, which is greatly affecting learning in our kids.”
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