Many young people like to experiment with different products. Add to that a lack of a sense of mortality and, if not deadly, it’s an unhealthy combination.
E-cigarettes use among youth has reached what the Food and Drug Administration calls “epidemic proportions,” and North Dakota is no exception. A Youth Risk Behavior Survey in 2017 found that 20.6 percent of North Dakota high school students were using electronic vaping devices compared to 13.2 percent nationally. If there’s an epidemic, North Dakota would seem to be at the forefront.
Bismarck is no exception. During the last school year Bismarck school resource officers issued 35 citations to students for using e-cigarettes. From the beginning of the school year, Aug. 23, to Oct. 11, officers issued 66 tobacco citations to students, 45 for e-cigarette use.
E-cigarettes aren’t always easy to spot. The devices come in different sizes and shapes and the liquids have a variety of flavors, including fruit and other sweet flavors — an apparent effort to tempt youth. Juul e-cigarettes are the most popular devices in Bismarck schools and they are hard to spot because they resemble a flash drive.
Fortunately, school, health and law enforcement officials are taking a proactive approach to the problem. If students are caught with vaping devices they are confiscated and the students cited if they are too young to possess tobacco products. Underage or not, students face disciplinary actions, including after-school detention and suspension from athletic activities.
The main concern with e-cigarettes relates to potential health problems. The FDA, in announcing a crackdown on e-cigarette companies and retailers who market and sell to kids, cited the damage to developing brains of adolescents due to nicotine addiction.
In North Dakota and Bismarck efforts are underway to educate the public, especially parents and students, about the hazards of e-cigarettes.
Bismarck Public Schools is in the process of offering presentations to parents on youth vaping, drug trends and suicide prevention. The sessions run from 6:30 to 7:30 p.m. with the next one Thursday at Simle Middle School and another on Nov. 15 at Wachter Middle School. Representatives of Bismarck-Burleigh Public Health, the Bismarck Police Department and the North Dakota Department of Health's Suicide Prevention Program are taking part.
Students Against Destructive Decisions also does presentations with students on vaping.
Just as the battle against cigarettes took time and is still ongoing, it will take an extended period to take the charm away from e-cigarettes. The steps being taken in Bismarck and North Dakota make sense. School and health officials can’t do it alone. Parents must get the needed information and work with their children. The efforts of everyone involved can lead to success.