BATTLE AGAINST TEEN VAPING
The Fort Worth School District is among several across the nation battling the growing epidemic of teenagers and children using e-cigarettes, otherwise known as vaping. This comes on the heels of decades of decline of cigarette smoking among youths, and is introducing a new generation of tobacco products that can addict a new generation of users to tobacco and nicotine.
At Tuesday's meeting, the Fort Worth City Council unanimously (9-0) passed a resolution showing its support of the FWISD - and all other area school district - in this fight. The resolution also calls upon local communities to join in and do their part to help.
The decision came on the same evening the FWISD Board of Trustees was creating its own resolution on the subject, also approving it 9-0, making it one of the largest school districts in the nation to pass such a decree, according to the American Heart Association.
In its last smoking ordinance update in 2017, the Fort Worth City Council prohibited the use of e-cigarettes.
More than 5 million students in the United States are using electronic cigarettes and vaping, according to the recent survey conducted by the Food and Drug Administration. Studies show that more than 1-in-4 high school students have used e-cigarettes.
"We're back to where we were in 1997," said Tobi Jackson, Executive Director of SPARC (Strengthening after school Programs through Advocacy Resources and Collaborating), who is also the First Vice President and Past President of the FWISD.
"The good news is three in four aren't using them. We hope these resolutions and the grass roots campaign to get the community out will help."
One vape pod contains as much addictive nicotine as a pack of cigarettes.
Also, 90% of adult smokers first try a tobacco product by age 18 and the tobacco industry, including the e-cigarette companies, spend billions marketing directly to teens, who, of course, will be adults soon.
The short-term and long-term health risks to teens using e-cigarettes are still being
revealed, and recently have been linked to deaths and serious respiratory illnesses requiring hospitalization.
"All these kids are wanting to try it," District 7 Councilman Dennis Shingleton said. "These kids overload it - and adults too. They're just loading it down with nicotene."
An e-cigarette is a battery powered device that delivers nicotine and flavorings to its user in the form of aerosol. Vaping is the act of inhaling and exhaling the aerosol. Studies show that vaping impacts teenage brain development and causes serious respiratory illnesses that could lead to death.
"I would support most any initiative to discourage teens from using tobacco, alcohol or drugs," District 4 Councilman Cary Moon said. "This is a successive campaign to the Nancy Reagan 'JUST SAY NO’ campaign that we grew up with.”
Jackson said with the recent increase of the legal age to purchase vaping devices going to 21, more teens are getting them illegally. Much like a drug dealer might do, they are being sold less potent batches at first, leading to an addiction. Also, she said different strains of nicotine are being sold, and vapers are often putting liquid THC in, thus burning their lungs.
She also said some are using hoodies to hide their usage. They will pull the strings on the hoodie tight and exhale the smoke in them.
"Tell me they are marketing those hoodies to you and me," Jackson said, noting that cigarette companies are also behind the vast sales of vaping products as well.
“The health and well-being of all Fort Worth residents, especially our future leaders, plays a vital role in the overall success of our community," District 3 Councilman Brian Byrd said. "It is my hope the city’s support of FWISD’s efforts positively impacts the health of our students and educates our community on the risks associated with e-cigarettes and vaping.”
The resolutions come during the same week two community discussions are being hosted about the electronic-cigarette and vaping epidemic and its impact on teens. In an effort to turn the tide locally, the Fort Worth ISD and its Council of PTAs is partnering with the American Heart Association, Fort Worth SPARC and State Rep. Nicole Collier (D-Fort Worth) to host the community discussions about this epidemic and its impact on youth.
Medical professionals, state officials and students are among panelists slated to discuss vaping effects, how to detect e-cigarette devices and usage and talk about the epidemic with teens, at the two anti-vaping events. The first of these was held yesterday (Jan. 28), with the other being today (Jan. 29) from 10 a.m.-noon at the I.M. Terrell Academy for STEM and VPA, 1411 I.M. Terrell Cir. South.
Panelists for today's meeting include nationally acclaimed toxicologist Dr. Peter Stout, Rep. Collier and FWISD student Anna Carey. The discussion is being streamed live via the Fort Worth ISD Facebook page.
"We just hope that when you get the facts you won't want to do it," Jackson said. "There's a lot of work to do, and we need a lot of people to help us get it done."
For more information on e-cigarettes and its effect, visit https://e-cigarettes.surgeongeneral.gov/.