There were over 50 parents and community members in attendance at last Wednesday’s, May 8 vaping education and forum event at the Windham High School. Entitled, “Don’t Let Your Life Go Up in Vape”, Hawa Shir of Portland Public Health and Laura Morris of Be The Influence presented information on vaping and the scientific studies that indicates the negative effects that vaping and other drugs have on the developing brain.
“We also discussed how youth are targeted by the industry,” stated Morris, referring to the various vaping flavor concentrates available such as bubble gum, cotton candy, etc. After the presentation, there was a panel discussion with information that was shared to parents on health risks and the increased use in schools and what parents can do to keep their youth safe.
The panel of experts included: Ron Springal, MD/Asst. Director of Opioid Response under Gordon Smit; Windham High School Assistant Principal Phil Rossetti;Emily DaSilva of the Opportunity Alliance; Doug Daigle, Seventh-grade Health Teacher; Eliza Adams and and School Resource officer, Matt Cyr.
Both Shir and DaSilva took time out of their schedules to share pertinent information regarding vaping use and youth health, specifically as it impacts the lung and brain.
“There are a variety of health concerns when it comes to vaping products,”Shir stated. “The e-liquids used in these products can contain a variety of harmful chemicals that can cause health issues in youth and adults. Some illnesses that have been found to come from vaping are popcorn lung and wet lung. Other affects can vary from person to person. These products also contain nicotine which is highly addictive. Youth who use these products are conditioning their brain to addiction.”
DaSilva offered the following ways parents and the community can help to prevent youth vaping use:
Know the facts- make sure you have a clear understanding of what vaping is and the effects it can have on the individual and on the community.
Establish and maintain good communication with your young person – they’ll be more likely to come to you about serious problems.
Be a positive role model- our young folks learn from what they see.
Help your child identify a protective factor or goal that they are working toward and frame conversations around protecting what’s important to them.
Talk to legislators about the need for more restrictions around vaping.
Make sure school policy is up to date with vaping language
Regarding education and awareness, DaSilva added that it is imperative to continue to get the word out that vaping isn’t safe for young people and that being safer than cigarettes doesn’t mean safe. “And that when it comes to the developing brain, the use of nicotine primes that brain for future addictions,” she said.
As a result of education being offered in the schools and community, the word is spreading about the detrimental effect of this activity. However, there are students in the community who vape. “Although most prevalent in high school, we have seen students start vaping as early as fifth grade,” Morris stated.
Perhaps the best method of prevention was offered by Shir, “Talking to your kids about these topics in an open way can be helpful to youth.” In doing so, it can help direct youth to make more wise decisions in regards to their health.