WCPSS examines new e-cig education after vaping incidents spike

WAKE COUNTY, N.C. (WTVD) -- Wake County Public Schools banned e-cigarettes from all school property back in 2014.

To say that the vaping ban did not work would be a huge understatement - there's been a 1000 percent increase in vaping-related cases among students since then.

Tuesday's presentation at the WCPSS school board meeting was about figuring out new ways to tackle a growing crisis.

School board members heard the hard numbers on growing student e-cigarette use. And that wasn't the only troubling news.

"E-cig use has gone way up but the other thing you'll also notice is general tobacco is also going up as well," said Brian Glendenning, Senior Administrator of Healthful Living about the statistics in the report from the School Health Advisory Council.

The report shows the numbers are exploding; In the 2016-17 year, there were 45 reported cases of e-cigs on campus. Last school year it was nearly twelve times that - 526 cases.

The spike happening in a school district that banned e-cigs on campus over 5 years ago.

"You can have the best policies on the planet but when you have marketing agencies trying to get products into the hands of children, it happens," said WCPSS school board member Dr. Jim Martin. "And so we have seen the same kind of growth you've seen nationally."

And then there's the unknown dangers. "An issue with these flavored e-cigarettes is that they're using organic compounds. And the organic compounds are not meant to be inhaled. It's so new that doctors aren't really sure what is exactly going to happen," Glendenning told the board.

The solution from the council is more education: More training for teachers, staff and administrators about e-cigs and how to keep kids from using. And mandatory e-cigarette lessons in health education classes in grades 6 through 8.

One board member suggested it's not just the children who could use the lesson.

"When a principal tells me that a parent is buying the JUUL for their student I'm very concerned that we got a huge hill to climb here in terms of community education," said WCPSS board member Bill Fletcher.

School board members applauded the health advisory council's commitment to including student viewpoints in its work. That work continues with a youth empowerment forum, led by students, focused on reducing vaping use, scheduled for March.
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