Vaping presentation alerts parents to dangers


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Parents and students who attended a vaping awareness presentation at Viera High School on Dec. 10 had a chance to find out just how serious a problem vaping is among teens.

Rachel Winsten, a Brevard Public Schools health and physical education and health resource teacher, said the county’s school system is in the process of making parents and students aware of the negative effects of vaping.

Vaping entails the use of e-cigarettes, which heat liquid into aerosols that users can inhale. The liquids typically have nicotine, flavoring and other additives.

“There is no smoke smell, so it’s really hard to know if your teen is vaping,” Winsten said.

E-cigarette flavors can contain chemicals linked to a serious respiratory condition disease known as popcorn lung. In addition to deeply inhaled particles, e-cigarettes might contain organic compounds and metals, according to the U.S. Surgeon General.

Recent surveys reveal that e-cigarette use is more common among high school students than adults.

In 2018, more than 20 percent of high school students, or 3.6 million, reported vaping within the past 30 days, according to the Centers for Disease Control.

The Juul, which typically looks like a USB memory stick and can be charged in a computer port, has had a rapid increase in use among high school and middle school students.

“These devices are the “iPhone of e-cigarettes,” Winsten said.

Juul cartridges can have as much nicotine as a pack of cigarettes, even though they produce less smoke than similar vaping devices. Not only can e-cigarette use among teens lead to a lifelong addiction, it can impact brain development.

Enticing flavors such as cotton candy, mint and mango are popular among teens.

Juul claims that its product is designed as a “smoking alternative,” rather than a smoking cessation device. But school administrators in Brevard aren’t buying into that.

Former Viera High School principal Mike Alba expressed his concerns about Juuls and other vaping devices in several of his weekly emails to parents.

“These products are clearly targeting teens and young adults,” Alba said in an email. “I am concerned that these products will be creating a new generation of students who will be addicted to nicotine and other harmful substances which are found in these vaping devices.

“Make no mistake — these devices are just as harmful as cigarettes if not more given the chemicals individuals inhale when utilizing these vaping devices. In addition, these devices are capable of loading cartridges that contain THC, found in marijuana.’’

In Florida, vaping is illegal for those younger than 18.

So how are teens getting their hands on Juuls and other vaping devices? At convenience stores, online and from friends at school, according to Cpl. Kirk Geweniger of the Brevard County Sheriff’s Office.

And just what are some of the legal repercussions of vaping at Viera High?  School policy states that students caught vaping will face a fine along with 16 hours of community service.

Additionally, any student possessing nicotine will be suspended. Even more stringent legal penalties are incurred if cannabis concentrates are found.

For information on the dangers of vaping among teens, go to e-cigarettes.surgeon
general.gov/getthefacts.html.