Back in the day, kids who smoked at school used the bathrooms, sports fields or their cars between classes to get a quick hit of nicotine. Times have changed and tobacco for the most part is out, but kids are still getting that hit of nicotine from easy-to-hide devices that provide a puff of nicotine-laced aerosol with no ugly tobacco smell. And forget about waiting for the bell to ring; many kids are using these vaping devices right in class. While smoking has changed, so have the rules for using tobacco or nicotine delivery devices on campus. Most schools have designated their campuses as tobacco-free environments for everyone, and students’ code of conduct rules may lead to suspension for using nicotine on campus. Pinellas County students in Florida have another option besides suspension – attend a tobacco clinic, but so many students have been caught using vaping devices, there is a waiting list until May.
The boom in popularity of the new Juul device is making it easier for kids to use nicotine in school and more difficult for schools to control use on campus. Suspension days differ in Florida depending on the county, but Pinellas County students caught for the first time are being offered a choice of serving a three-day suspension or taking a two-night tobacco clinic at a nearby high school. The clinic is run by educators from the school district and John Hopkins All Children’s Hospital in St. Petersburg.
So far this school year 243 kids have enrolled in the Pinellas County school system’s tobacco clinic. Last year that number was only 80, an increase of 203%. Kids caught with e-cigarettes is five times what it was last year. While the school district added another classroom to double the number of students to 40, there is a backlog until May. If everything works out, the school district hopes to open a second clinic in a south location next year.
The biggest problem is that many of the kids believe it is water and flavoring and don’t understand that a Juul pod equals the amount of nicotine in a pack of cigarettes, or about 200 puffs. Some of these kids are using up to three pods a day. The pods also contain other chemicals such as nitrosamine, benzyne and acetone.
Florida law states teens must be 18 in order to purchase these devices, but teens are getting money from their family, buying prepaid credit gift cards and buying the devices online. Some of the students caught with vaping devices are as young as 12. They go online and watch YouTube videos on how to perform tricks blowing clouds of vapor. Those who use e-cigarette devices are more likely to go on to smoke, according to statistics.
Providing tobacco prevention education is important for all Florida students. The Florida Tobacco Prevention Training for Educators online course allows teachers in any Florida school district to take the course at no cost to them or their district, and provide 30- or 60 points towards Professional Development points. At the conclusion of the course, six (6) tobacco lessons are taught to students. The course provides information on tobacco as well as alternatives, such as electronic cigarettes. There is still time to sign up this year to complete the course and teach the lessons before students leave for the summer. Click Florida Tobacco Prevention Training for Educators to register for our course and teach your students the dangers of tobacco and other nicotine products including vaping.
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