Vaping Myths and Realities

The Amador County Unified School District is targeting vaping in schools, pushing a proactive and primarily non-punitive approach to the problem. Students caught vaping on school grounds are directed to educational resources to teach them about what vaping does to your body, the chemicals in the oils and how to get on the road to recovery. If students are caught multiple times, however, the district will move forward with punitive measures, up to and including suspension.

“We are dealing with students vaping on a daily basis,” said Assistant Superintendent Sean Snider. “We’ve seen kids as young as elementary school pretending to vape and even kids in junior high school vaping.”

ACUSD has partnered with Nexus Youth and Family Services to bring in NYFS’s Alcohol, Tobacco and Other Drugs preventive education program that teaches students about the dangers of vaping. The district also uses programs like Too Good for Drugs and Botvins Lifeskills Training, which touts a 75 percent reduction in drug use, 87 percent reduction in tobacco use and 60 percent reduction in alcohol use.

“We’ve recognized that we need to start preventive education earlier,” said Snider. “We really need to start educating kids at the junior high level, around sixth grade.”

Additionally, ACUSD uses VapeEducate, which is a five-hour training course that students caught vaping are required to complete during their lunch breaks. The course covers what vaping is, the health risks, how marketing targets younger people, addiction, an overview of vaping and society and vaping marijuana. However, VapeEducate also offers resources for parents to help educate their children and themselves independent of the school system.

“Vaping doesn’t seem to be seen the same way as smoking is,” Snider stated. “It’s looked at as a healthy alternative when in reality it’s just as bad, if not worse.”

Snider went on to state the size and discrete nature of vape pens has made it difficult to detect and mitigate. Some of the products, like Juul, look like USB drives and even have a USB connector to charge them. He also elaborated that the vapor is hard to smell because it tends to dissipate quickly, or kids are able to exhale into sweatshirts to cover the odor. 

The vapor from vape pens isn’t just vaporized liquid, it is also known to contain flavorants like diacetyl, a chemical the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, the U.S. Surgeon General’s Office and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention say is linked to serious lung disease.

“They’re trying to bait kids with these flavored cartridges,” expressed Snider. “I don’t know how they can get away with that.”

The cartridges come in flavors like pancake breakfast, blue razzberry, peach, cotton candy and a plethora of others. The vapor can also contain traces of heavy metals like nickel, tin and lead. As of Tuesday, October 1, there have been 1,080 reported lung injury cases and 18 deaths across 15 states. Of the 889 people with data on record for age and gender, 81 percent are under the age 35. Broken down further, 16 percent are under 18; 21 percent are 18 to 20; 18 percent are 21 to 24; 26 percent are 25 to 34; and 19 percent are over 35.

The CDC stated that no specific substance has been identified as the cause of the outbreak, but THC products seem to have a role. ACUSD is planning an event to educate parents on vaping and associated products on Thursday, December 12 beginning at 2:15 p.m. at Pioneer Elementary. This event will be the first of many planned outreach events to educate parents and students on the dangers of vaping.