By Brittany Gilbert
At the Thursday, October 7 meeting on Polk County Community Connections, there was a presentation on e-cigarette use, which begins as early as third grade in the United States – statistics that have reached even schools. of Polk County.
Humansville Superintendent Tammy Erwin and Polk County Health Center Public Information Officer Carol Bookhout led the presentation on the issue of vaping in local and national school districts.
The information for their presentation was funded by a grant they submitted for “prevention of substance abuse,” Bookhout said.
âIt’s a substance, and it’s being abused,â she says.
This problem, she explained, “directly affects schools and students in our schools and their families.”
An e-cigarette, she said, is a device that came from China to the United States.
In China, she explained, electronic cigarettes were used almost for medical purposes, as they were “used under the direction of doctors to curb traditional smoking or to eliminate it altogether.”
When it was transferred to the United States in late 2006, the use of electronic cigarettes turned into recreational use.
âThe manufacturersâ¦ were involved in bringing e-cigarettes to the United Statesâ¦ without this element of medical advice,â Bookhout said.
Additionally, manufacturers “saw an opportunity to attract” young people, she said.
âIn the last two weeks it’s been vapes collected in Humansville,â Erwin said during his part of the presentation, holding up a few ziploc bags of e-cigarettes confiscated by the district.
“We know for a fact that those who start smoking before the age of 21 are less likely to quit in their adulthood,” said Bookhout, and these manufacturers know it – securing customers for life, a big opportunity monetary for them.
Erwin first spoke about the bag of devices she took from the kids at Humansville Middle School.
Holding an e-cigarette, she explained how it looks like a USB stick and can easily fit in someone’s pocket. This version typically costs around $ 8 in stores, she said, and comes in flavors such as âcake, ice cream, candy bar, peach, watermelon, Captain Crunch,â she said.
Initially, the flavors were designed as a marketing tool to encourage mainstream smokers to try e-cigarettes to help them quit smoking altogether, Bookhout said.
Instead of reaching adults, however, he appealed to young people – students still in high school, middle school, and even elementary school.
By monetizing this, the manufacturers added fun packaging, making these e-cigarettes look like candy.
Erwin held up another device, stating the reviews she saw of this product as follows: “” It doesn’t leak, it doesn’t smell of cigarette smoke, it just leaves that sweet scent in the air, “he said. She said. “Someone would never know I was vaping until I went to my next event,” she said. “These are the reviews.”
Bookhout explained how she had presented in other high schools before, telling students how young people “were specifically targeted (by these companies) to start doing something that these companies knew was going to hurt them in the long run.” .
Along with many chemicals – some causing cancer – the most important is nicotine, Bookhout said.
Advertising for electronic cigarettes was aimed at claiming that they were a âsafe alternativeâ to regular smoking because they did not contain tobacco.
However, the addicting ingredient, nicotine, is still there.
It may be “safer,” but it’s not “secure,” Bookhout said.
On top of that, the chemicals involved in embalming, nail polish remover, paint thinners and fireworks are found in these devices, she said.
Erwin went on to explain another common dilemma for students.
âBack when I was in school,â she says, âif someone was smoking in the bathroom, everyone knew it. You could smell it, there was smoke, it was very easy.
Students today choose a different method of vaping in order to avoid getting caught just from the smoke – “they swallow it,” she said.
âThese kids swallow everything you should breathe out – they go deeper into their lungs,â she said.
Then she held up an elementary school bag, the crowd making surprised noises at the youth’s revelation of this problem.
Among the vapors in the bag, one had been confiscated from a third-grade student and one from a fourth-grade student.
She then held up the canister of the vaporizer, which she said may contain marijuana.
“One of those little pods,” Bookhout said, “is the equivalent of a packet of cigarettes, and a lot of kids will smoke more than one pod a day.”
Erwin focused on the story of a student who is currently in eighth grade and has experienced a dramatic change in character.
âWhen he was in sixth grade he was the kind of kid who wasn’t afraid to always hug people,â she said. “Just a happy, happy, lucky child.”
He was active in the sport and had good grades, she added.
She said when he started seventh grade it was the same way, but around Christmas “we just saw this change – a whole different kid – cranky, irritated, disrespectful”.
She said he wasn’t even the same person. He lost weight, his color changed and he was getting referrals at school.
At the end of the year, Erwin said they caught him with a vape in school.
This year, she said, he’s been caught vaping three times – just since starting school in August.
She said that when asked what was going on with him, he said, â’I can’t stop; I can not stop. I get caught with them at school because if I try to go a whole day without it at school, that’s where I’m in trouble. ‘ “
Bookhout also explained how young people still have developing brains, so introducing a drug like nicotine into their system while the brain is developing requires the brain to connect around it.
Once their brains have developed around this chemical, it will be nearly impossible to remove it.
For an adult, processes like concentration, self-regulation, emotional control and memory have all been developed, she said. Adding nicotine to an adult’s already developed brain will be easier to stop down the road.
Therefore, if students start smoking before the age of 25, these processes do not work well without nicotine as they develop.
That’s when Erwin mentioned the developing side of the brain and how the kid in the example doesn’t lie – he really can’t stop.
The district had installed new cameras around the school for better safety, and she said this particular child was seen going to the bathroom “six times between 8 and 11 a.m.” the day he had been surprised with his third vape.
She mentioned that some parents don’t even know what their kids are doing until school tells them about it.
That’s when Erwin said the first step is just to talk about it.
She then said that for eighth grade, when he returns from suspension, he will speak with Erwin, the school resources officer, the Polk County juvenile officer and his mother about how they can help him.
The school can do what it can during school hours, but the rest of the day is not theirs. It was then that she encouraged the community to help outside of school.
Bookhout said there had been a decline in e-cigarette use, but it was still prevalent.
According to a CDC and USFDA study, more than two million students in grades 6 through 12 are currently vaping.
The most popular devices are disposable – for convenience and the underhanded tactic of getting rid of them.
She explained that the health consequences include severe lung damage, some of which resulted in death under the age of 18.
When she walks around talking to young people in schools, âwe base our information on specific facts,â which they neither add nor take away. Students are also encouraged to study the subject in their spare time.
She continued her presentation to talk about treatments available for children, whose nicotine patches are not.
Instead, the focus turns to behavior modification.
There are programs available such as Community Partnerships of the Ozarks, Springfield Area Vape Education program, Truth Initiative, and CATCH My Breath. Then the apps on the phones are also useful.
âBut it’s so difficult,â she said, reminding the community that it’s not an easy fix. It will take work.
She then encouraged the community to start promoting the state of Missouri to pass a law making 21 the age at which people can buy tobacco products. The age limit is currently 18.