November is Lung Cancer Awareness Month and over the last few weeks, Tappan Zee High School Prevention Counselor Annie Scott has visited health classes to talk about the dangers of vaping.
Scott discussed the evolution of e-cigarettes since their introduction in 2011 and engaged students in an interactive game to test their knowledge about vaping. The lesson explored how cigarettes and vaping are marketed and tactics used to target people of all ages and the health risks–such as EVALI, a serious respiratory condition– linked to e-cigarette use. Lung scans of patients with healthy lungs and those with EVALI emphasized the real harm that can result from vaping.
“Vaping is as addictive as smoking nicotine, so that means it is equivalent to trying to quit smoking regular cigarettes. However, there are plenty of resources available to help people ranging from patches and gum, to talking to your doctor,” said Scott. “We all make choices about our bodies. Giving up something you know is bad for you shows that you care about yourself.”
These lessons are part of a broader, ongoing substance use prevention, intervention and counseling effort spearheaded by Scott and South Orangetown Middle School Prevention Counselor Bobbie-Angela Wong.
According to the 2022 National Youth Tobacco Survey, roughly 1 out of every 7 high school students and 1 out of every 30 middle school students reported current e-cigarette use. Nearly 85% use flavored e-cigarettes and disposables are the most commonly used device (55.3%). Among youth who are current e-cigarette users, 27.6% reported daily use, while more than 40% said that they used e-cigarettes at least 20 of the last 30 days. Most e-cigarettes contain nicotine, which is highly addictive and can harm adolescent brain development.
In addition to the work of the prevention counselors, vape detectors installed at both schools last year have enabled administrators and counselors to more effectively identify and address students using at school.
“Getting students to understand the dangers of cigarette smoking has been a success because of the partnerships that have been created by schools, families, doctors, and policymakers,” Principal Rudy Arietta noted. “Unfortunately, vaping has filled the void and poses a new challenge for us. I am hopeful that we can use some of the same strategies to help young people understand the dangers of vaping. Education of the dangers and using the vape sensors are just parts of the effort that we need to address this issue. I encourage parents to educate themselves on vaping so they can reinforce that message at home as well.”