Teen Vaping on the Rise

May 2nd, 2019

The nationwide epidemic has hit home in Collier County schools.

Just a few years ago, most middle- and high-school students had never even heard of “vaping”– the smoking of e-cigarettes. Electronic cigarettes are handheld devices that heat a liquid solution that usually contains nicotine into an inhalable vapor. Since the devices are easily hidden and since the practice doesn’t leave the smoky smell, it’s easy to hide. One vaping cartridge contains as much nicotine as a full pack of 20 cigarettes, and some students are vaping that much nicotine per day.

While cigarette smoking continues a steady decline among students (the annual Florida Youth Tobacco Survey shows a 64 percent decline among students ages 11 to 17from 2012 to 2018), vaping is fast rising in popularity…and at an alarming rate. For example, during the same period from 2012 to 2018, there’s been a 361 percent increase.

These statistics reflect a nationwide problem. “What we’re seeing in Collier County mirrors the national epidemic of vaping,” says Chad Oliver, Collier County Public Schools(CCPS) Executive Director of Communication and Community Engagement.

At the start of the school year, CCPS sent an email to all parents of middle- and high-school students, “explaining the dangers of vaping and ways that parents can be alert and proactive,” says Oliver. The district is also planning to show a Public Service Announcement video to its students, demonstrating the dangers of vaping, along with the consequences if they are caught – which range from a five-day suspension for first-time offenders to felony arrest for those who vape THC (the chemical in marijuana that causes a person to get high). Much like cigarettes were a generation ago, vaping is now considered a way to be “cool” among peers.

Tracy Bowen, Coordinator of K-12 Health and Physical Education for CCPS, says students are feeling not only peer pressure to participate, but are also bombarded by slick marketing campaigns on social media, making it look cool and fun.

CCPS is working with several local agencies, including DLC, to educate members of the community about vaping, and to help parents be on the lookout for it in their children.

Sources: Florida Youth Tobacco Survey, Florida Youth Substance Abuse Survey

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