Addressing school age vaping

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By Ronnie McGehee

JA Guest Writer

As a former school superintendent, I am deeply troubled by the growing trend of vaping among our youth. The allure of flavored vape products has captured the attention of adolescents, leading to a concerning increase in underage vaping. It is imperative that we address this issue with urgency and implement effective regulations to protect our children’s health and well-being. 

Out of 10 admin that I reached out to, all said that the problem is getting worse, and most are immediately suspending for vaping 6 to 45 days to Alt school. By the way, this response came from 10 districts across our state. Several schools are requiring a computer course completion on educating the student on dangers but as of yet very little difference in number of occurrences. Principals are sharing that it is really becoming a huge problem.

One of the primary concerns with vaping among kids is the potential health risks associated with it. While some may argue that vaping is a safer alternative to traditional smoking, the truth is that the long-term effects of vaping are still largely unknown, especially when it comes to adolescent users. The addictive nature of nicotine in vaping products can have detrimental effects on the developing brains of young individuals, leading to a lifetime of addiction and health complications.

The percentage of middle school students currently using e-cigarettes jumped from 3.3% to 4.6% Multiple product use among middle school students has also increased with 2.5% of students reporting using more than one tobacco product, up from 1.5% in 2022. This is a troubling finding among the youngest of participants because we know the detrimental effects of nicotine on the developing brain. 

With e-cigarettes remaining the most commonly used tobacco product among all youth since 2014, the survey also highlights the persistent concern of nicotine dependence. Nearly half (46.7%) of all students ever using e-cigarettes reported using them currently, indicating that many young people who try e-cigarettes remain e-cigarette users.

Moreover, the lack of regulation in the vaping industry is alarming. Unlike tobacco products, which are subject to strict regulations, vape products have entered the market with minimal oversight. This has paved the way for a plethora of enticing flavors and marketing tactics that specifically target young consumers, making it easier for kids to access and become addicted to these products.

As a community, we must come together to advocate for comprehensive regulations on vaping. This includes measures such as age restrictions, flavor bans, product labeling requirements, and increased enforcement to prevent underage sales. These regulations are not meant to infringe on personal freedoms but rather to protect our children from the harmful effects of vaping and ensure a healthier future for our community.

Additionally, education and awareness are key components in addressing the vaping epidemic. We must work to educate parents, educators, and students about the risks associated with vaping and provide resources for quitting or avoiding vaping altogether. By fostering a culture of health and responsibility, we can empower our youth to make informed decisions and resist the pressures of vaping.

In conclusion, the time to act is now. We cannot afford to overlook the dangers of vaping among our kids. By implementing strong regulations, raising awareness, and promoting healthy alternatives, we can create a safer and healthier environment for the next generation.

Dr. Ronnie McGehee is Executive Director of Mississippi Association of School Administrators, Mississippi Association of Secondary School Principals.

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Addressing school age vaping

By Jackson Advocate News Service
June 10, 2024