Nearly a third of high schoolers use a vaping product nationwide, which has sharply increased since 2011, but Fairfield has used new tactics to attempt to stay well below the national average, according to the Fairfield Prevention Coalition.
Vaping-related illnesses made headlines in September when the Ohio Department of Health announced that 17 people were hospitalized because of vaping, including one from Butler County.
Ohio Department of Health Director Amy Acton said there is “a tremendous increase” in youth vaping, calling it “a public health crisis.”
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“There is a perception that vaping is safe, and these reports of serious pulmonary illness linked to e-cigarette or vaping product use show that this is simply not true,” she said.
Fairfield Prevention Coalition Executive Director Deb Neyer said her group has “tried to stay on top” of the issue in the 10,000-student school district, and said there was a 3 percent drop to 10.8 percent of youth using e-cigarettes from 2015 to 2017, according to the survey performed two years ago. The coalition surveys youth every two years.
Neyer said she’s hopeful the lower use continues with new data collected last month. The coalition will know in February’s results “exactly what’s going on with Fairfield with regard to vaping.”
The sweet and candy-like flavors of vape products give youth the sense they’re safe, which Neyer said they are not.
Nationally, nearly 28 percent of high school used an e-cigarette or vaping product, and about 11 percent of middle schools students reported using at least once, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Neyer said that’s “a pretty high rate of use considering that tobacco products have been decreasing in the last 10 years. It’s a whole new generation of young people that are being addicted to nicotine.”
Fairfield’s downward trend hasn’t filtered to the rest of the region, Neyer said, and in some places vaping just replaced alcohol as the most frequently used substance among young people.
Vape and e-cigarette devices use liquid pods that are accessible to youth users, Neyer said. Liquid in the pods contains the equivalent of a pack of cigarettes, and youth are vaping between a pod per day to two or three pods per week, she said.
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“Youth are buying it at retail locations and also getting it from family, friends and social sources,” she said.
National reports say they can buy products online, and they are easily concealed as they don’t look or smell like other tobacco products, like cigarettes.
Ohio’s Tobacco 21 law went into effect in mid-October, setting the minimum age for buying tobacco products at 21. Gov. Mike DeWine earlier this year called for a ban on selling flavored vaping products. During an Oct. 1 press conference, DeWine said his push to ban flavored vaping pods would “protect Ohio’s children from addiction.”
The Fairfield Prevention Coalition has worked to combat the rise in popularity of e-cigarette and vaping devices and will have a continuing education unit from 9 to 11 a.m. Dec. 10 at Mercy HealthPlex on Mack Road in Fairfield. It’s sponsored by Beckett Springs Behaviour Health.
The coalition spent the month of November focused on vaping with its youth coalition. There were in-class lessons with 350 middle school students and 165 freshmen.
Schools tobacco use polices are incorporating e-cigarette and vape products in their tobacco use policies, and use of them on school property can be met with disciplinary action, including suspension.
Fairfield Local Schools established an intervention process designed to confront problem behaviors, which may indicate a problem with tobacco, drugs or alcohol. The school offers a list of resources to help students and their parents.
Fairfield Schools Director of Student Services Jeff Madden said their partnership with the Fairfield Prevention Coalition led the district to use an American Lung Association program INDEPTH. Among the program’s features, “it provides teens with healthy alternatives to replace tobacco products, and the empowers them with skills to avoid future use,” he said.
Madden said the school is exploring training some staff members to teach this course and use it as an alternative to suspension. They intend to implement the program during the school year, he said.
Neyer said programs like INDEPTH are important as many schools focus on punishments, like suspensions, “but we have to remember that you can’t punish addiction out of a young person. You have to give them the resources to help them be able to quit.”
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