LEWISBURG — Educators and public policy experts were schooled in vaping Wednesday night.
A gathering, organized by the Greater Susquehanna United Way, opened with a video produced to inform young people of the dangers of what were generally called “e-cigs.” Ann Dzwonchyk, Evangelical Community Hospital educator, noted that the Human Relations Media video was released less than six months ago and that many area students have seen it.
The video explained that the devices use electric current to vaporize liquid nicotine and were introduced about 10 years ago. They were seen as an aid for adults who wanted to quit smoking.
Many users believe vaping is a safe alternative to conventional tobacco, but research shows it contains more than a dozen known carcinogens. It added that vaporized nicotine affects the same neuroreceptors as opioids with similar withdrawal. Flavored product, which can include tobacco’s active ingredient, often comes in varieties critics say are attractive to children.
More recent versions included the Juul, a device which looks like a computer thumb drive. It emits fewer visible vapors and has proven to be popular among underage users.
Dangers outlined included addiction, substances gathering in the lungs, dental damage and conventional tobacco use when electric products were not available.
Dzwonchyk was joined on stage by Leo Sokolski, Bloomsburg University police, Dr. Perry Meadows, director of medical and government programs for Geisinger Health Plan, Kerry Davis, Northumberland County Drug and Alcohol specialist, Jennifer Campbell, a registered dental hygienist and Paula Reber, Lewisburg Area High School principal.
Reber praised the video as something secondary school students could relate to. She said the increasing use of the new products was noticeable.
“High school kids often don’t think of the long term,” Reber added. “I certainly didn’t. A 16 or 17 year old has a sense of immortality.”
Sokolski noticed that vaping is legal for persons over age 18, but has seen vape use on the rise as a consult for his local intermediate unit. He said it was a problem for the schools, but similar to combating other substances, was a chess game of a kind.
Meadows said the chemicals inhaled in vaping include arsenic and lead. It can affect the lungs negatively in eight weeks after use starts.
Davis said he works with student assistance programs in Northumberland County.
“Many of our schools are not well- informed about vaping and Juuling,” he said. “I’ve seen tapes in schools from their surveillance cameras in the cafeteria where kids were openly vaping and Juuling and nobody has a clue.”
Davis said some staff members mistook Juuls for computer thumb drives. Staff members have also wondered why rest rooms have the aroma of cotton candy or fruit punch, not realizing it was flavored vape product.
Online purchases of Juul cartridges, shipped illegally by unscrupulous dealers from states where recreational pot is legal, may be tampered with and filled with the active ingredient of marijuana. Davis said other water soluble substances, such as heroin or cocaine, may also be vaporized via the Juul system.
Campbell observed how the dental damage can rot teeth and gums while young people are still using orthodontics. She also noted her own son has been a frequent user.
Reber added that penalties for vape possession on campus were the same as for other prohibited substances.
The presentation at Lewisburg Area High School was sponsored by Snyder Union County Opioid Coalition in partner ship with United Recovery, a partnership of five United Way chapters.