An A.H.S. student said he isn’t sure why he started vaping, but he is sure that people would be surprised by the number of students that vape.

“I know just as many kids at school who vape, or have at least tried it, than kids who haven’t. It isn’t just kids in a certain clique and it isn’t just kids who do not play sports. I think a lot of people would be surprised,” said “Hank”(name changed to protect identity), a student at Amery High School.

Although e-cigarettes have been around for more than a decade, vaping rates have skyrocketed in recent years, especially among teens. It doesn’t seem to matter the size of the city teens reside in, e-cigarettes have become the No. 1 source of nicotine consumption among adolescents. More than 3.6 million middle and high school students currently use e-cigarettes, according to the latest National Youth Tobacco Study. Another national study last year found that 11% of high school seniors, 8% of 10th-graders, and 3.5% of eighth-graders vaped with nicotine during a previous one month period, far surpassing traditional combustible cigarettes. 

The worrying part is many young people think vaping is mostly harmless. Although the number and levels of toxicants are lower in aerosol from electronic cigarettes than from tobacco smoke, long term exposure to e-cigarette vapor could still cause nicotine dependence and increase the risk of respiratory and cardiovascular health effects.

Because vaping is a relatively new habit, many do not understand what the act of vaping actually means. Vaping is the act of inhaling and exhaling the vapor produced by the heated nicotine liquid, often called juice, of an electronic cigarette, also called an e-cigarette or e-cig, vape pen or personal vaporizer. It’s also commonly called JUULing (pronounced jewel-ing).

According to research done by Yale Medicine, the popularity of Juul is worrying to addiction researchers. Juuls arrived late to the e-cigarette market in 2015, about eight years after vaping devices first began appearing in the United States. But the company, called Juul Labs, has surged ahead of competitors. Juul accounted for 72% of the e-cigarette market in August 2018. Juul products appear sleek and slim, with an appearance that mirrors a flash drive.

What originated as a smoking cessation aid has quickly became a popular and addictive product in its own right. Some attribute the recent rise in popularity to packaging and advertising. They feel teens are after innovation and they’re attracted by sleek design and ease of use.

Although vaping companies emphatically deny that they are marketing to young people, critics note such features in their advertising as youthful images and colors, animation, actors who appear to be under 21, and suggestions that vaping makes you happier and improves your social status.

During a recent media briefing, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) advised people to avoid e-cigarettes while federal and state officials investigate a nationwide outbreak of severe respiratory illnesses associated with the use of e-cigarette, or vaping, products. 

Federal and state officials have reported hundreds of total possible cases of pulmonary disease and several deaths that may be related to vaping. Patient symptoms ranged from cough, chest pain and shortness of breath to fatigue, vomiting, diarrhea and fever, according to the CDC.

As part of their investigations, state health officials have sent samples of products to the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) for analysis. The FDA is evaluating these samples for THC, which is the high-inducing compound in marijuana, nicotine, vitamin E acetate, and a range of other chemicals. 

The Polk County Health Department sent out a Public Health release in mid-September citing as of Sept. 6, 2019 there have been over 450 possible cases of lung illness associated with e-cigarette products. There have been 5 confirmed deaths, with the closest being reported in Minnesota. 

As of Sept. 5, 2019, Wisconsin Department of Health Services was aware of 34 cases, with 12 patients whose cases need further investigation. These cases have been reported in multiple counties throughout Wisconsin. Most of the affected individuals have been adolescents and young adults, but older adults have been affected too. “It is important that not using e-cigarettes is discussed with youth and anyone that is currently using or considering use,” said Brian Kaczmarski, Polk County Health Officer. 

Vaping is not allowed on the grounds of the School District of Amery and is a violation of the school’s Athletic/Activity Code. Some schools across the nation are taking extreme measures to combat the vaping crisis. A Nebraska school district is planning to introduce random nicotine testing among students aged 12 to 18 if they wish to take part in extracurricular activities. Students and their parents are required to sign a consent form agreeing to the urinalysis tests, which are randomly assigned to 10% of the students in extracurricular activities each month.

Schools in Maryland, Virginia, Pennsylvania, New Jersey, Arizona and Illinois have installed WiFi-enabled vape detectors, a new technology where sensors that resemble smoke detectors, are installed in areas of schools where students typically vape, such as restrooms. They are designed to detect vapor from e-cigarettes by measuring changes in humidity and air content.

On behalf of the School District of Amery and the Amery Police Department, District Administrator, Dr. Shawn Doerfler and Police Chief Tom Marson released a joint statement to the Amery Free Press on vaping, which said, “The School District of Amery and the Amery Police Department stand united in the belief that the safety and well-being of Amery kids is a top priority. Towards this end, both the school district and the police department recognize that vaping presents unique challenges to the health and wellness of Amery children.”

 “We are aware of the growing body of evidence about the dangers of vaping. Further, we understand the reality that health professionals may not even know yet the harmful effects which the use of vape has on the physical, social and emotional well-being of our kids.” 

“Our approach to addressing the issue of vaping is twofold: First, it is the goal of both the school district and the police department to educate our kids on the dangers of vape use; second, it is our position that kids who use vape in any part of the school environment should be held accountable with a consequence.”

“The hope is that our kids will make smart choices about the use of vape. Yet, we understand that kids sometimes need to be properly educated about their health choices. We are committed to providing our kids with all of the necessary information on vaping so as to encourage them to not vape. Above all else, the School District of Amery and the Amery Police Department wish to partner with you, our parents and guardians, to help our kids live long and happy lives. Please speak with your children about the dangers of vaping, and we will do the same. The health and well-being of our kids depends on it.”

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