Just as smoking hit its lowest level since WWII, our new generation of youth has been introduced to e-cigarette devices. Although many forms of e-cigarettes exist, schools tend to see vaping devices most often. Specifically, the JUUL brand is commonly referenced, most likely because in 2018 it accounted for 76% of the e-cigarette market. Clever advertising has created a false security surrounding e-cigarette use. Consistent and intentional messages have promoted these devices as a safe, nicotine free alternative to smoking. Unfortunately, nicotine is present in almost all products and when coupled by kid-friendly flavors, our youth are unintentionally setting themselves up for an addiction.
I’ve been asked why I’m so concerned about e-cigarette use amongst my students and my response is both simple and complex. The term deliberate indifference refers to the conscious or reckless disregard of the consequences of one’s acts or omissions. As a school administrator, I can’t ignore the fact that last December the Surgeon General declared e-cigarette use a public health epidemic, nor can I dismiss data showing nationwide, e-cigarette (vaping) use by high school students increased by 78% and the number of young adults who tried the JUUL increased by 400%. Due to the recent surge in use, not all long-term health effects are known, but we are seeing a regular occurrence of related health scares. We do know ingredients found in the aerosol can increase the likelihood of respiratory issues, and diacetyl, a chemical found in the liquid has been linked to issues such as “popcorn lung”. I’m most concerned with high levels of nicotine and the temptation for users to experiment with “off the street” products. These two issues correlate well. When considering 1 JUUL pod has 59 mg of nicotine (similar to a pack of cigarettes) teens who do experiment are quickly becoming addicted and exhibit behaviors associated with withdrawal and the need to try stronger products.
Unfortunately, because vaping devices create minimal exhaled aerosol, and limited odor, our district has struggled to stop vaping on school grounds. Going into the new school year, we have revised policy, worked to eliminate opportunity, and purchased detection devices. Our intent is not to catch or trick students, rather, we hope to mitigate the activity in some of our most private areas. As users become addicted to nicotine, we know the long-term effects will continue to increase and nicotine can easily become a gateway to other substances. Doing nothing is not an option, and although this isn’t going to solve the problem entirely, I hope it is a step in the right direction.
My goal is to partner with the entire school community to educate and encourage students to refrain from vaping behavior. Prior to purchasing the devices, I solicited funding assistance through Connections. I was pleasantly surprised that while sponsoring the annual Revive Fitness Family Runs, local businesses donated directly to our mission. Those specific business are listed below, and I can’t thank them enough for assisting with this project.
In the upcoming weeks, vape sensors will be installed at various locations throughout the MS/HS building. The timing of this letter is to allow you an opportunity to visit with your child about both the sensors and health risks associated with vaping. I am confident that together we will mitigate the progression of this trend.
Thank you for trusting me with your children and your continued support of the Dell Rapids Public School District.
Dr. Summer Schultz, Superintendent
A big thank you to the local business owners who generously donated to this project!
Dells Materials BX Civil & Construction Direct Automation
Big Sioux Media Revive Fitness Avera of Dell Rapids
Brian Nelson: American National Insurance