Roaring Fork Schools join counties for anti-vaping campaign |

Roaring Fork Schools join counties for anti-vaping campaign

Staff report

With vaping on the rise among Colorado students, the Roaring Fork School District and public health departments in Garfield, Pitkin and Eagle counties are joining together to raise awareness of the harms of nicotine.

“Vaping is highly concerning for us because the incidence has skyrocketed in the past few years among youth, whereas their perceptions of harm from vaping remain low,” RFSD Superintendent Rob Stein said in a news release. “Ads tout vaping as a healthy alternative to smoking, which is misleading and irresponsible.”

Gov. John Hickenlooper declared the first “No Vape November” earlier this month to combat the relatively new method of ingesting nicotine. Liquid containing nicotine, usually flavored like something sweet, is heated to a vapor using a small battery-powered devise and inhaled by the user.

Around 53 percent of RFSD students reported that they have tried vaping, and 37 percent said they vaped nicotine within the past 30 days, according to a 2017 Healthy Kids Colorado survey. That is a 21 percent increase in vaping from 2015.

“Nicotine has a negative effect on adolescent brain development, causing lasting cognitive and behavioral impairments,” said Risa Turetsky, a tobacco specialist with Pitkin County Public Health. “And more than 90 percent of vaping products, when tested, contain nicotine — usually a lot of nicotine.”

The most common vaping device is the Juul, which has cartridges containing the same amount of nicotine as a pack of cigarettes, Turetsky said.

Stein assembled a task force to raise awareness for the effects of vaping. Surveys show that youths don’t see vaping nicotine as a harmful activity.

RFSD’s lead prevention specialist Sonja Hendrickson-Linman aims to teach healthy, constructive habits for self-regulating to students, and to the community as a whole.

“Creating a toolbox of skills can help all of us navigate the challenges we face,” Hendrickson-Linman said in the release.

Added Stein, “We are taking vaping very seriously in our schools and, at the same time, we have learned from other public health threats that it takes time to change behaviors and knee-jerk reactions don’t work.

“We are working with public health officials, law enforcement officers and elected representatives to develop a comprehensive response to vaping,” Stein said.

The joint anti-vaping effort will include outreach to parents of students in grades five through 12 in November, and vaping education sessions for parents in the spring. RFSD teachers and staff members will have access to information about vaping, and public health officials will place vaping awareness banners on RFTA buses.

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