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Special Report: Dangers of Vaping for Children, Vaping in School

By Mike Scott NEMOnews Media Group Schools across the nation are seeing a startling increase in the number of students “vaping”, or using electronic cigarettes.  A national study released last week reported that teen use of e-cigarettes soared in 2018.  The survey, which polled eighth, 10th and 12th graders across the country, reported that in nicotine vaping was the largest increase in substance abuse recorded by the study in 44 years. Around 21 percent of high school seniors nationwide had vaped within the previous 30 days, compared to about 11 percent last year. One of the most common electronic cigarette is a JUUL, which looks more like a USB flash drive than a cigarette. However, they all work on the same principal-an electric source uses a heating element to vaporize a liquid containing flavoring, and in most cases, nicotine.  The vapor is then inhaled in the same way as cigarette smoke. Vaping devices are popping up in schools around northeast Missouri.  NEMOnews Media Group has reached out to school officials to see what they’re seeing in their schools. “It’s becoming a pretty big problem,” said Clark County R-1 High School principal Jason Harper. “Most of these devices don’t look anything like a cigarette, and the “pods” look just like mechanical pencil refills,” Harper added. “They’re not cheap, either,” he said. Harper stated that since beginning of the school year, he has confiscated several e-cigarettes, and only one or two actual packs of cigarettes. A JUUL starter kit costs around $50.  A four-pack of flavored pods is available for $15.99 at their website. “Tobacco or tobacco-like substances aren’t anything new that school district have to deal with on a yearly basis.  To say we are seeing an increase in tobacco and tobacco-like products use among students in middle/high school would probably be incorrect.  We are seeing the products they are using to be different however,” said South Shelby Superintendent Tim Maddex. Maddex added, “To be proactive, Missouri Consultants for Education (MCE), our policy writers began to classify e-cigarettes or anything similar to a cigarette (vaping, JUUL pods) as tobacco products back in 2014.” At North Shelby, Principal Kerri Greenwell reported, “Kids are getting by with vaping/juuling in schools because this particular type of e-cigarette looks like a small/slender flash drive, so the devices can be easily hidden in a student’s pocket.  Students can ask to use the bathroom and then vape while there, or some may vape inside their shirts in class if not being watched closely.” “As with any school we feel the greatest part we can play in prevention of any health concern is through education,” said Tony DeGrave, superintendent Marion County R-II School District “I feel our Health Department does an excellent job in educating our students on risk factors of nicotine regardless of how its consumed. Vaping and e-cigarettes are trending and have made there way on campuses of  most school districts.  As a district we must be aware of trends and work to curb the negative impact it may have on our students lives,” DeGrave added. At Milan High  School, Superintendent Dr. Ben Yocum said, “Fortunately, this particular issue has not risen to great significance in our school.  At this point, we have had to make no changes to our current policy/procedure; but, if it does elevate to a massive problem – we will do what is in the best interest of the school/students.” As of publication time, Palmyra and Knox County had not responded to our questions. The following information is from the Center For Disease Control Website.

How do e-cigarettes affect the brain?

The nicotine in e-liquids is readily absorbed from the lungs into the bloodstream when a person uses an e-cigarette. Upon entering the blood, nicotine stimulates the adrenal glands to release the hormone epinephrine (adrenaline). Epinephrine stimulates the central nervous system and increases blood pressure, breathing, and heart rate. As with most addictive substances, nicotine activates the brain’s reward circuits and also increases levels of a chemical messenger in the brain called dopamine, which reinforces rewarding behaviors. Pleasure caused by nicotine’s interaction with the reward circuit motivates some people to use nicotine again and again, despite risks to their health and well-being.

What are the health effects of e-cigarettes?

Some research suggests that e-cigarettes might be less harmful than cigarettes when people who regularly smoke switch to them as a complete replacement. But nicotine in any form is a highly addictive drug. Research suggests it can even prime the brain’s reward system, putting vapers at risk for addiction to other drugs. Also, e-cigarette use exposes the lungs to a variety of chemicals, including those added to e-liquids, and other chemicals produced during the heating/vaporizing process.

 Health Effects for Teens

The teen years are critical for brain development, which continues into young adulthood. Young people who use nicotine products in any form, including e-cigarettes, are uniquely at risk for long-lasting effects. Because nicotine affects the development of the brain’s reward system, continued e-cigarette use can not only lead to nicotine addiction, but it also can make other drugs such as cocaine and methamphetamine more pleasurable to a teen’s developing brain. Nicotine also affects the development of brain circuits that control attention and learning. Other risks include mood disorders and permanent problems with impulse control—failure to fight an urge or impulse that may harm oneself or others.