Education is Key to Addressing Teen Vaping Epidemic

Jan 30, 2020

The local chapter of the American Heart Association says one in four high school students report using an e-cigarette in the past month. The organization hosted a community conversation about the issue Thursday with school administrators and students.  

Addison Johnson, a senior at Akron’s STEM high school, told the Heart Association vaping devices are small and easy to use undetected at school. He also said there’s a misperception among students who use them.

“Because of stress and anxiety. A lot of time it’s a relief for them, it’s like ‘if I do this, it’ll calm me down.’ They think it helps them,” Johnson said.

Ohio’s Tobacco 21 law has been in effect since October, raising the age to purchase tobacco products from 18 to 21. But Johnson said students know places where they can get vaping devices without showing an ID.

One of the panelists, Bonnie Simonelli, is an at-risk coordinator for the Revere Schools. She told the Heart Association the community response to this issue has been more effective.

“We’re always kind of behind the times when we learn about something. But getting in there fast with education, helping them to understand the damage it’s doing; that it’s not a safer alternative like it was sold. I see that students are starting to kind of know that.”

The Heart Association is part of Summit County Public health’s youth vaping task force. It plans to develop an action plan to continue to address the vaping problem. 

Panelists at the community conversation included: Firestone High School junior Luke Buckingham, Akron Early College sophomore Salam Said, Revere High School sophomores Max Crisalli and Alexis Zapisek, as well as STEM High School senior Addison Johnson. 

Besides Simonelli, Revere Local Schools Superintendent Matthew Montgomery participated along with Eric Merkle, a school psychologist with Akron Public Schools.