Vaping is a rising trend which has garnered national attention in 2019 due to several deaths attributed to the practice. Local school districts have taken steps to increase awareness for students.

Vaping, a trend that has become popular in recent years, is receiving a lot of attention from politicians and media lately, with a number of deaths attributed to the practice in 2019. Some states, including New York, are taking legislative measures to help protect youth from taking up the practice.

Specialists with county Drug and Alcohol Services and area superintendents shared concerns about vaping, as well as the methods in place to educate and increase awareness for students.

Bradford Area School District has recognized the issue and has a specialist working in the district to help with concerns.

“This is a very significant issue in not only our district, but in schools nationwide. There are still students who admit to vaping on a regular basis although they are unsure of what they are actually inhaling,” said Katharine Pude, superintendent of Bradford Area School District.

“We did provide office space for Greta Billings, a counselor employed by McKean County Drug and Alcohol Services, at Bradford Area High School this year so that she could help us to address these issues on a daily basis. She has been meeting with students in small groups concerning the dangers of vaping and is present to follow through with any support they or their families may need. Our health classes and Success 101 class at the high school have also provided our students with information concerning the dangers of vaping.”

Otto-Eldred School District considers the issue a “significant concern,” and various changes have been made to attempt to address the situation with their students.

“Vaping is a significant concern in our district. We have addressed the issue, as it relates to our tobacco policy. There still is a disconnect with youth and the dangers that vaping brings,” said Matthew D. Splain, superintendent of Otto-Eldred School District. “We have addressed the issue with curriculum updates as well as utilization of services of McKean County Drug & Alcohol. Additionally, we have included messaging around our buildings that detail the dangers of vaping. We are pursuing outside speakers that can effectively address the issue with all students. Additional support from state and federal government that would reduced availability and access to students would be a great support in keeping our kids safe.”

The concern for students and increased vaping practices extends to Potter County as well.

Katie Taylor, Potter County prevention specialist, presented a vaping and Juuling information session to Oswayo Valley School District on Oct. 1. For her, a main concern is how prevalent vaping is, when teens may not know exactly what they’re getting from it.

“Vaping is predominant among 7-12th graders of all backgrounds in our area. If you ask a teen about vaping, they will tell you they have a close friend or family member who vapes regularly,” Taylor said. “Vaping appeals to teens because of the flavors and the ability to conceal it easier than other nicotine products. Many teens will tell you that they use it solely because it tastes good, or because their friends are doing it. Most aren’t using it for the nicotine, but the nicotine is what’s keeping them hooked.”

Taylor explained that with vaping, unlike with smoking, there may be parents who are unaware of the full scope of potential impact on the person vaping.

“My biggest concern is that many parents are allowing it to happen. They aren’t necessarily supplying their child with vaping supplies, but they know they are using it,” Taylor explained. “Many parents have false beliefs that vaping is harmless because of the way it’s been marketed.”

Reaching today’s teens takes a different approach than used in the past for awareness campaigns. Taylor had a few tips for both parents and school administrators who hope to help students gain awareness of the dangers of vaping.

“For parents, I would advise you to ask your child what they know about vaping, if they know any friends using it, and why they’re using it. Scare tactics like ‘it’s bad for you, or it can kill you’ don’t work,” Taylor said. “Showing interest in their experiences will help them open up and will give parents a chance to educate their child.

“For school administrators, they can continue making referrals for drug and alcohol education, request ‘Too Good for Drugs’ lessons, and vaping presentations in order to keep their students educated. This education helps students differentiate between factual information and falsehoods of social media marketing.”