A student at Durant High School partnered with a variety of community leaders to host an antivaping forum last week.
Durant High School students and their parents had the opportunity to learn more about the vaping epidemic sweeping the country in a special presentation at the school on Nov. 7.
Miranda Bihler, a senior at Durant, was searching for the perfect project to earn her Girl Scout Gold Award. Looking around her campus, she was alarmed to see just how quickly vaping had become a “norm” for students. So she set out to create a presentation to address the issue with her peers. Principal Gary Graham, however, had another idea. While he agreed the students should have access to the information, he felt Bihler should also key in on the parents to spread awareness of the evolving medical studies surrounding the issue and alert them to signs their children might be vaping.
“I could see that it was such a growing issue in the community and Mr. Graham had the idea to expand the project,” Bihler said. “It starts at home and parents can get involved and absolutely make an impact in their child’s life.”
Partnering with Graham and School Resource Deputy T.J. Henderson, the project grew into a massive undertaking. When it came time to host the presentation during a parent night on campus, Bihler wanted to make sure she wasn’t the one providing the information to the attendees. She reached out to a variety of different experts in the area and eventually settled on having three keynote speakers discuss the topic.
Micky Conger, a local R.N., Hillsborough School District Area 5 Superintendent Sharon Morris and Travis Coy, a representative from the Juvenile Division 13th District State Attorney, all gathered at Durant to share their thoughts on the topic.
Conger shared the ever-evolving data coming from the Center for Disease Control and Prevention. The CDC reported that there have been more than 2,000 cases of vaping-related illnesses and, of those, there have been 39 confirmed deaths. She showed graphic photos of injuries most commonly seen from vaping accidents, ranging from the device exploding in the mouths of teens who were vaping, to sores from the inhaled vapors. She said that while there haven’t yet been many in-depth studies on the issue, more are coming out daily. The data, while young, is still worth perusing. She said vaping is not as harmless as companies want you to believe. Many of the liquids contain carcinogens like acetone, lead and nicotine.
Conger shared stories of cases she’s both seen and read about where vaping has led to respiratory failure and injuries. She also added that trends are spreading. Now ERs are seeing alcohol poisoning symptoms as teens come in having inhaled alcoholic fumes from their vape pens.
The seminar came at the perfect time for Hillsborough County. Just a day before Bihler’s presentation, Hillsborough County commissioners voted to put the brakes on teen vaping by raising the legal age to purchase and possess vaping products to 21 years old.
Coy walked parents and students step by step through the actual rules in the books, what they meant and the consequences for those caught violating the law.
“This is definitely a timely event we are having,” Coy said. “I’m not sure if you are aware, but an ordinance passed yesterday regarding this. It’s an issue our county and our state is taking to heart.”
While state statutes do address the issue, the main consequence tends to be fines for underage usage of the substance. There can be jail time and a teen can lose their license for an allotted period of time if violations continue to occur.
Morris took the stance of the county school district, saying she saw it was a rising problem and while smoking used to be their biggest issue, vaping was now the principal issue. She added to Conger’s statement of substituting cartridges out for more serious issues and said the district was finding a growing number of marijuana cases being reported via vapes.
It’s a topic that can no longer be ignored and the hope was if parents were informed and were able to share the realistic consequences with their children Hillsborough County could nip the issue in the bud.