Recent state, county and town legislation to restrict access to vaping implements such as e-cigarettes and Juul are responses to a growing community concern about not only the physical health of students in school who participate in the behavior but also about their social behaviors into the future.
While vaping, the administration of nicotine into the lung via aerosol using a vehicle such as an electronic cigarette, is being cautiously touted of as a means to help otherwise decades-long heavy cigarette smokers get weaned off of the cigarette smoking habit, it is also considered the latest “fad” school districts such as the Bellmore-Merrick Central High School District have been proactive in countering not only because of its effects on the lung but because of the “gateway” behavior it engenders.
“The issue for school districts and educators today is not simply to caution students and their parents about the harmful physical effects vaping can cause, but it’s now also about students’ social behavior as well,” remarked Eric Caballero, the Central High School District’s director of physical education, athletics, drivers education and health.
He inferred to Your NewsMag that any school district could arguably carry an educational responsibility toward a student that wasn’t properly taught at the high school level about the dangers of vaping especially when navigating such social pressures to conform to vaping in college. “Students might not be prepared to resist that kind of social pressure at the college level” if they were not educated at the high school level first about its harmful effects, he said.
FIRST LINE OF DEFENSE
Education at the high school level can also break the “gateway” behavior many confront at the college level by stopping the behavior at the high school level – and not carry it forward. But, he reminds, educators carry a compact with parents, who must always be the first line of defense against questionable social behaviors now and into the future, such as vaping.
Programs and initiatives the school district has instituted as vaping has become cause celebre among students are clearly proactive measures to get out and in front of the issue by encouraging students’ parents to be the most effective line of protection. “Creating dialogue at the dinner table with their children about the physical and social effects of vaping” is what being educationally proactive is all about, Caballero continued.
He says the district has sent emails to parents that contain educational videos on vaping with e-cigarettes. The district’s Community Parent Center hosts educators, law enforcement officials and parents that meet to discuss where students might get vaping implements to smoke, which alerts law enforcement where to look to stop illegal sales, for example.
Such meetings and discussions have resulted in the district developing a no-tolerance policy toward vaping implements in school or outside on the school grounds. Town councilpersons and county legislators attending meetings have heard the concerns, which have translated into recent laws passed restricting or curtailing sales of vaping implements such as e-cigarettes and JUUL, a more modified e-cigarette that looks like a flash drive, from students under the age of 21 from getting them.
A Hempstead Town law adds a new Subsection “D” of Section 121-4 of Chapter 121 of the Town Code, in relation to enacting enhanced signage requirements for retail sale of electronic aerosol delivery systems. It states that “all business establishments selling age-restricted product at retail shall post a conspicuous sign at all points of purchase within the establishment, stating: ‘Warning: Vape contains nicotine. Nicotine product is an addictive chemical.’ – U.S. Food and Drug Administration; and ‘Vaping can be hazardous to your health.’ – U. S . Surgeon General. Posted by order of the Town of Hempstead.”
Nassau County’s legislation adds to the signage to further restrict the point-of-sale advertising of JUULs and e-cigarettes inside convenience stores. The legislation, sponsored by county Legislator Steve Rhoads (19th LD) “forbids these products from being displayed near candy or toys and requires them to be sold from behind the counter. These dangerous products have been marketed towards children, with flavors such as bubble gum, cotton candy and others. By displaying them next to candy, trading cards or toys, they are encouraging children and young adults to think they are harmless when it is becoming increasingly apparent that the truth is very much to the contrary.”
The fine for stores violating this policy starts at $250.
Chris Ferro, Nassau County Police Department inspector and commander of the county’s major case bureau, which includes the narcotics/vice squad, told Your NewsMag “We get ‘intel’ every day on vape shops” and where questionablel activities are taking place. He says vape shops have popped up everywhere, including gas stations. He said vaping has reached a crisis level, and the police department is investigating vigorously the many claims it receives.
He noted a recent Federal Drug Administration letter to major e-cigarette manufacturers and tobacco companies requesting information on how they plan to address what the FDA sees as a major health crisis for at-risk youth.
Inspector Ferro said the FDA also reports that teenage use of nicotine is up 900% in recent years, due in large measure to vaping.
Chief among vaping’s health concerns is its administration of nicotine into the lungs of a vapor, a chemical long known as an addictive substance. But under the radar are chemicals designed to enhance the flavor of the aerosol being inhaled. The major flavor designed to give the aerosol a creamy, buttery flavor, is diacetyl.
The federal Centers for Disease Control warns that “Diacetyl and its substitute, 2,3-pentanedione, are flavoring compounds that are used extensively in the food flavoring and production industries. Occupational exposure to diacetyl has been associated with severe respiratory impairment and obliterative bronchiolitis [popcorn lung], a serious lung disease that is irreversible.”
However, the website headoverhealsinhealth.com downplays the statistical certainty of vapers getting the disease, and instead leans on vaping’s proven ability to wean heavy tobacco adult smokers off the more toxic cigarette: “For the vast majority of people, using e-cigs has allowed them to avoid or at least minimize exposure to a much greater threat: the massive amounts of toxic chemicals in smoke from combustible tobacco cigarettes. Reports that ignore this fact are, at best, very incomplete.”
A recent “60 Minutes” TV news broadcast included a woman, a heavy smoker, who took to vaping, which stopped her coughing first thing in the mornings and increased her lung capacity once more to be able to exercise again.
The website smoketastic.com asserts that nicotine doesn’t cause irreparable harm to the lung, the tar in cigarettes does – and vape aerosol contains no tar.
Of paramount concern to Inspector Ferro, however, is a legal law-enforcement ramification in which vaping implements enable teens to smoke marijuana without presenting tell-tale signs of the pungent odor. “Teens are smoking during bathroom breaks and when driving” or congregating socially.
It’s not the same marijuana from earlier decades, he said, but cannabis oil that is at least three times more potent that is being smoked through vaping implements. It is this precise issue that keeps law enforcement focused on enforcing new vape shop legislation.
But the programs of schools such as those at the Central High School District to combat not only vaping but its “gateway” behavior are designed specifically as proactive tools to catch and prevent poor behaviors before they lead to the more serious consequences of lung disease.
As Legislator Rhoads concludes: “If you are aware of a vape shop selling to underage students , tell the police.”