Within the halls of East Hampton High School in New York, everyone uses the word “epidemic” when talking about vaping.
Students and teachers here are certain that more than half, and possibly as many as three-quarters, of the student body uses vaping devices, mostly JUUL. Students who don’t vape can be made to feel like outcasts.
Beasley Allen attorney Andy Birchfield is working with school districts across the country that are struggling to cope with the crisis. Speaking at Wednesday night’s town hall meeting: “Vaping: Harming Our Kids & Stealing Our Tax Dollars,” he told members of the community that the epidemic did not occur by accident.
“What we’ve learned and what we’re seeing is a brazen campaign by vaping device companies to lure our teenagers and hook them on their products while at the same time using their power and influence to hold government regulators at bay,” Andy said.
Student Zoe Leach provided an ominous warning. “It’s spreading like wildfire at our school,” Zoe said. “The top-ten percent kids are doing it. So are the all-county athletes. JUUL doesn’t have any boundaries. Everyone is doing it.”
A second Beasley Allen sponsored town hall was held Thursday, Oct. 3, at Southampton High School, 141 Narrow Lane, Southampton, New York.
East Hampton High School Principal Adam Fine is aggressively working with students and teachers to stem the flow of vaping products into his school while also providing counseling and assistance to students who have become addicted. He told parents that the vaping epidemic is draining dollars away from education.
“While JUUL and other vaping companies are making billions of dollars, taxpayers across the country are paying millions of dollars to address this epidemic and protect our students,” he said.
The town hall meeting featured two prominent, nationally known experts on nicotine addiction and youth health education. Dr. Victor DeNoble worked in the tobacco industry in the 1980s and was among the first clinicians to warn the public about the dangers of vaping. “There is clear-cut scientific evidence that nicotine changes the brain,” said Dr. DeNoble. “It is highly addictive and once addicted, it may take students years to break free.”
Dr. Bonnie Halpern-Felsher is a professor at Stanford University, and her research focuses on understanding how young adults make health-related decisions. In her presentation, she warned attendees that JUUL vaping products use a unique salt-based nicotine that is more potent and more addictive. She also warned that 15,000 versions of flavored e-cigarettes are attracting underage vapers. “We don’t need these flavors on the market. They’re not for adults, they’re for kids.”