Teenage vaping a rising national, local issue

In 2018, 3.6 million middle and high school students in the United States used e-cigarettes, according to data supplied by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. As of Dec. 17, 2019, 54 deaths had been reported for patients diagnosed with e-cigarette, or vaping, product use associated lung injury, or EVALI, per the CDC.

Amid rising national awareness of vaping, e-cigarette usage and Juuling from teenagers and young adults, Round Rock, Pflugerville and Hutto ISDs have taken steps to raise community awareness surrounding the dangers of e-cigarette usage, particularly in teenagers and young adults.

Round Rock ISD Superintendent Steve Flores was selected as one of 11 superintendents across the United States to participate in a forum aimed at addressing and providing solutions to the rising prominence of e-cigarette use in youth, according to an Oct. 30 news release.

“The vaping crisis is the pinnacle focus of current youth health issues, and our students are more aware than anyone how prevalent this dangerous behavior has become,” Flores said in the release, adding that vaping was addressed by RRISD students as one of their “top areas of concern.”

St. David’s Foundation, Baylor Scott & White Health and Catch Global Foundation—a public charity that provides resources to improve children’s health—partnered with Hutto ISD for a presentation on the health implications of nontraditional smoking methods, hosted at Hutto High School on Nov. 20. Pflugerville ISD also hosted a Dec. 12 forum on the rising trend of teen vaping as well as recent legislation passed in Texas to combat the epidemic.

Jennifer Ashman-Porter, director of student services at HISD, said conversations are needed to help close the information gap and clarify common misconceptions related to e-cigarettes, Juuls and vaping.

“I think in particular, with Juul and the way e-cigarettes have evolved, they’re very easy to miss. It wouldn’t be uncommon for an adult not to recognize them,” Ashman-Porter said. “But also, I think it’s so important to look at the value of that conversation between the child and the parent.”

Patricia Stepaniuk of Catch Global Foundation said the uptick in hospitalizations related to EVALI, along with Texas’ new law raising the minimum purchase age for tobacco products to 21, has helped stimulate further conversations across communities. But with the pervasiveness of e-cigarettes advertisements, popularity in social media and celebrity culture, as well as easy access at local convenience stores, Stepaniuk said there still is a ways to go to mitigate the trend.

“Kids are exposed to this, and it’s all around them, and it might be subtle, but those subtle messages creep in and create that perception,” Stepaniuk said.

Stepaniuk said Catch Global Foundation offers a free youth vaping curriculum in schools alongside its presentations to help promote an open line of communication between educators, parents and the children within the community.

“We can really only cover so much content, but we try to hit the high points,” Stepaniuk said. “What we feel that most parents walk away with is that spark of curiosity to read into it more and really evaluate where they’re getting information from.”
By Kelsey Thompson
Kelsey Thompson is the reporter for Round Rock, Pflugerville and Hutto, where her work focuses on education, city government and community development. Originally from Upstate New York, Kelsey relocated to Austin after graduating from Syracuse University in May 2019.


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