E-cigarettes and vaping discussion raises awareness

Photo by Aidan Gunderson
Principal Rob Bach and community members met in the school auditorium for a discussion regarding student vape use on Oct. 10. The purpose was to inform parents and increase awareness of this increasing problem. 

A community meeting was held on Oct. 10 in the auditorium to address the issue of e-cigarette use (also called e-cigs, and vapes) amongst students. The purpose of this meeting was to help parents and students become more aware of this ongoing problem, share how the school staff and local law enforcement are currently addressing this growing issue and engage the attendees in an open dialogue about how to best support students.

Principal Rob Bach, Assistant Principals and Chemical Health Specialist Julia Geigle from Youth Service Bureau shared a comprehensive presentation that emphasized three main goals: provide information, discuss prevention efforts and explore potential solutions. The presentation was followed by a question and answer session.

E-cigarettes are battery-powered devices that are used to inhale, or “vape”, an aerosolized liquid (e-juice). There are more than 460 brands of e-cigarettes included in the $8 billion vaping industry. E-cigarettes and other vaping products recently surpassed conventional cigarettes as the most commonly used tobacco product among youth. Specifically among Minnesota high school students, e-cigarette use is now double the use of conventional cigarettes.

“I would say that it has become more mainstream now than it once was and more people are doing it,” senior Isaac Anderson explained.

I would say that it has become more mainstream now than it once was and more people are doing it.”

— Isaac Anderson

In 2016 a student survey was administered, which showed approximately 1 in 4 students reported using an e-cigarette within the past 30 days. These survey results are consistent with recent Minnesota data that shows a 50 percent increase in Minnesota high school students e-cigarette use since 2014.

Stillwater Area High School partners with Youth Service Bureau to provide school-based Chemical Health Specialists and resources to support students. Geigle encourages parents to be patient and ready to listen, while remembering that their goal is to have a conversation, not deliver a lecture. If a child does use e-cigarettes, Geigle suggests asking them the reasons they do it to learn more about possible underlying issues and share resources to encourage them to quit.

“Our biggest issue right now is students vaping in the restrooms,” Oak Park Heights Officer and police liaison Jenna Hicks said.

Some of the current approaches to addressing the restroom issue is to keep doors propped open and have consistent monitoring throughout the day. If caught vaping or in possession of vaping devices, students will be refered to Hicks and she will work with the school administration and law enforcement to determine next steps.

The information provided at the meeting and the discussion that followed is part of an ongoing effort to spread awareness about the concerns of e-cigarette use among youth in the community. This collaboration between parents, students and the school community contributes to open, honest and clear communication that can help promote greater health among students.