#parents | #teensvaping | A new campaign against vaping is launching in N.J. schools

Teens around New Jersey are going back to school and being warned against the dangers of vaping with a new campaign sponsored by the Partnership for a Drug-Free New Jersey and the office of the state Attorney General.

The campaign comes amid national reports of a high number of teens using vaping devices or e-cigarettes, which the United States Surgeon General declared has reached epidemic levels.

As of December 27, 2,561 people throughout the United States had been hospitalized with severe lung injuries caused by vaping, according to the CDC.

The outbreak also was responsible for 55 deaths. In New Jersey, there have been 53 confirmed and 46 probable cases of vaping-related illness and one death, according to the Department of Health.

“Vaping can inflict significant damage to one’s health, especially for youth,” Partnership for a Drug-Free New Jersey Executive Director Angelo Valente said. “We want teens throughout the state to know the risks they are taking if they choose to use e-cigarettes and to encourage them to avoid using these potentially dangerous products.”

The PDFNJ campaign compares the risk of vaping to skydiving without a parachute. Posters for the campaign have been distributed to every school in the state, according to Matt Birchenough, the group’s director of special events.

The campaign images will also appear on billboards, trains, and buses throughout New Jersey.

“I think the campaign is important because it is a phenom and we basically have a new generation of people who didn’t smoke now using tobacco products,” said Liz Knodel-Gordon, the Student Assistance Coordinator for the Scotch Plains-Fanwood school district.

Knodel-Gordon said she often encounters students that just don’t know how much tobacco, nicotine or THC are in certain vaping products. She said her district has been including anti-vaping language in its student handbook since 2012.

This year she coordinated an anti-vaping symposium for the district’s high school students where they listened to a variety of speakers on the damage vaping can cause.

“I’ve received feedback and the students were really interested and receptive to the talk,” Knodel-Gordon said.

“The popularity of e-cigs and vapes among youth threatens to reverse hard-fought declines in adolescent smoking and create a new generation of nicotine addicts,” said Attorney General Gurbir S. Grewal in a statement. “We must raise public awareness about the dangers of vaping to prevent another deadly addiction epidemic from taking root in our communities.”

In 2019, more than one in four high school students reported using an e-cigarette in the previous 30 days, according to preliminary results from the CDC’s annual National Youth Tobacco Survey.

The results indicated an increase in teen vaping, up from 20.8% of high schoolers in 2018 to 27.5% in 2019. The use of e-cigarettes has increased in the past decade, especially among teens. In 2011, just 1.5% of high school students said they used an e-cigarette.

Olivia Rizzo may be reached at orizzo@njadvancemedia.com. Follow her on Twitter @LivRizz. Have a tip? Tell us. nj.com/tips.

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