The harms of vaping: A public health issue in our schools

E-cigarette use, also know as vaping or JUULing, has become a top priority. Teen vaping has increased 50% in Minnesota since 2014, and in Winona County 16.7% of 11th graders used e-cigarettes in the past month. There are many different types of e-cigarette devices, and most contain nicotine (addictive substance) along with cancer causing chemicals.

Winona County Alliance for Substance Abuse Prevention (ASAP) is launching a marketing campaign in schools this year about the harms of vaping.

ASAP held listening sessions with 79 10th-graders at Lewiston-Altura High School and Winona Senior High School. This is what they said: 

  • Seven out of 10 students think vaping is a great or moderate problem in their school.
  • Vaping is common on social media (Instagram, Snapchat, YouTube), both advertisements and pictures/videos showing youth using.
  • Vaping devices can be easily purchased online.
  • Vaping is common at school. Vaping occurs in bathrooms, locker rooms, classrooms, on buses and in parking lots.
  • Youth are influenced by e-cigarette use and vaping among their friends and family members.
  • Students agreed that there is a lack of information about the negative consequences of vaping. 

What prevention strategies do students recommend?

  • Increase monitoring at school by regularly checking bathrooms, and having students empty pockets and backpacks.
  • Strengthen the consequences of use to include confiscating devices and contacting parents.
  • Provide more education and information on the health consequences associated with vaping.
  • Increase communication between youth and teachers, and youth and parents, about the importance of not vaping.
  • Provide support and cessation services for students who want to quit vaping.
  • Reduce promotion of vaping both in the community and via social media.
  • Reduce access to e-Cigs and vaping devices by increasing the legal age to purchase, increasing ID checks at stores, and strengthening consequences for retailer noncompliance. 

Winona Area Public Schools has teamed up with local community groups to help educate parents more about this issue. At 6 p.m. Thursday, Oct. 24 in the middle school commons, there will be a community collaboration summit where everyone can learn the health risks of vaping, the way these products are deceptively marketed to youth and what these products look like. 

Education is the key to reversing the trend and harm they pose for our youth. 

The event is sponsored by the Winona County Criminal Justice Coordinating Council through its Community Outreach and Diversity Committee and the National Alliance on Mental Illness Winona Affiliate, as well as Project COMPASS. No registration is needed.