Barnstable School Administrators Cracking Down on Electronic Cigarettes

BARNSTABLE – School administrators in Barnstable are cracking down on the use of vapes and electronic cigarettes by students.

Officials will be meeting with parents and community leaders to help tackle the problem of increased youth vaping, which includes starting nicotine cessation programs for students already addicted.

The use of electronic nicotine delivery systems has undergone an increases in popularity among teenage children, who are attracted to the fruity flavors, easy to use dispensers, and the idea that the use of vaporizers is harmless.

“We are in the school looking at it from different angles, providing education to staff, students, and parents to see what we can do to help the prevention efforts,” said Barnstable Nursing and Wellness Coordinator Pam Ciborowski.   

Vaping is anything but harmless, according to health experts across the country.

The nicotine and tobacco products, which come in flavor pods, contain chemicals that are highly addictive and can cause damage to your lungs.

One pod of Juul (the most popular brand of e-cigarettes among students) provides roughly 200 puffs and as much nicotine as a full package of 20 traditional cigarettes.

Ciborowski said some parents have even purchased vaping materials for their children, not knowing that the devices are used for harmful doses of nicotine.

“I think education of parents and students is key in all of this because I think many of them think that this is just harmless water vapor,” said Ciborowski.   

“So I think educating them as far as that not being true is important and showing them what is in the vapor and e-cigarettes.”

The use of vapes can be incredibly hard to detect for parents or adults.

They use a battery power to heat a liquid that releases smoke, along with a varying amount of nicotine and students know that the tiny devices provide very little smoke and can be hidden in sweatshirt sleeves or pockets.

Educators at Barnstable High School are becoming more aware of the signs that a vape has been used, such as the aroma of fruity flavors coming from the bathrooms.

A common excuse used by students is that “everyone is doing it,” said Barnstable Superintendent Meg Mayo-Brown.

Ciborowski also noted that vape users are showing up in the nurse’s office more often asking for cough drops for sore throats.

Efforts by school officials has been to confiscate vaping materials when students are caught with them and to impose disciplinary measures including suspension and Saturday school.

Mayo-Brown said that the district plans to convene a stakeholder group this year to examine what is working and what is not in other school districts and to implement solutions throughout Barnstable.

A potential idea is turning Saturday school sessions into a four-hour program that includes education about the dangers of vaping, along with prevention and cessation efforts.

While the products are illegal to purchase for anyone under the age of 21 in Massachusetts, kids know how to get around the rules.

They have an older sibling purchase them or make online purchases via a prepaid gift card in which websites only require buyers to check a box to confirm they are over the age of 18.

Ultimately, the goal for officials in Barnstable is to help prepare students for life experiences, attending to their physical, social, emotional, and academic needs.

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