In the quest to quit smoking, some might turn to vaping as a slightly less harmful alternative.
St. Francois County Community Partnership (SFCCP) Executive Director Bill Bunch said he’s less concerned about adults who pursue that course of action, but figures from a recent survey of 6th- to 12th-grade students’ vaping perceptions and habits are a bit more alarming.
“All five school districts talk about what a problem this is in their schools, seems like younger and younger kids are latching onto it, it’s incredible,” he said. “I’ve seen them in the malls in St. Louis, puffing away.
"Some think it’s cool, and they think it’s a healthy alternative to tobacco, but it’s not at all. With some of the chemicals they put in the liquids, it’s more harmful than tobacco. They’re finding more risks with it.”
To that end, SFCCP commissioned a survey with Prevention Consultants of Missouri through a State Department of Mental Health grant. The survey has been conducted in even-number years since 2014 among 6th-12th graders from Bismarck, Central, Farmington, North County and West County, and found that while there appears to be a drop in alcohol, marijuana and tobacco use, e-cigarette usage has gone up slightly more than 4% in the last six years.
Parents were also surveyed, and numbers indicate an increasing number of them feel there was “no or slight risk” in vaping.
SFCCP has created a best-practices postcard designed to inform parents about risks associated with vaping, as well as how to talk to their kids about it. Bunch said school resource officers have described ingenious ways students have hidden vaping apparatus to sneak the habit on school grounds, and teachers have noticed students caught seem to be getting younger and younger. Ball-point pens, lipsticks and phones are sometimes props that have been found to house the vaping hardware, even the ends of drawstrings on hoodies.
“What schools are finding out, when they confiscate these things from the kids, they call the parents and the parents come and raise Cain about it,” Bunch said. “There needs to be more teeth in the law.
"If (the parents) want to provide these things to the kids, they need to bear the brunt of the law. Evidently, there’s no kind of penalty, so they allow their kids to do it. They say it’s illegal, but there doesn’t seem to be any kind of punishment for it. I’ve heard of no arrests for contributing to the delinquency of a minor.”
The postcard highlights that it is illegal for anyone under the age of 21 to buy or possess vapor products.
“The vaping companies claim they’re not marketing to kids, but what adults buy vape in the flavors of bubble gum and cotton candy,” Bunch said.
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The postcard urges parents to start talking to their kids about the subject, let their kids clearly understand parents don’t want them to vape, provide the reasons — such as the CDC linking vaping to problems with lunch health and brain development, and to help them come up with the words they can use if someone offers them a vaping opportunity.
“Model the behavior you want your kids to follow,” reads the postcard. “If you smoke or vape, consider getting the help needed to quit.”
Sarah Haas is the assistant editor for the Daily Journal. She can be reached at 573-518-3617 or at firstname.lastname@example.org.