(WTWO/WAWV) — According to the Indiana Youth Tobacco survey, 5 out of 10 Indiana High School students and 1 out of 10 Middle School students thought it would be easy to get tobacco products if they want them.
According to the Indiana Department of Health in July of 2020, the legal purchasing age for tobacco went from 18-21 years of age. But raising the minimum age of getting tobacco and vaping products may not be enough.
“Cigarette use, tobacco use, is going down. But it’s being replaced by vaping,” Shannon Giles, Tobacco Prevention and Cessation Coordinator for Tobacco Free Vigo and Chances and Services for Youth.
Giles said it’s easy to treat vaping as a behavioral problem, “A youth is doing something they shouldn’t do,” she said. “There are counties in Indiana where students that are caught vaping at school get actually a citation, they get arrested because they are doing it underage.”
Giles said Tobacco Free Vigo and Chances and Services for Youth’s preference for tackling teen vape use starts with prevention education. Then puts focus on the psychological and physiological addiction that it is.
“One vape can equal 40 or 50 cigarettes. The nicotine content in those vapes is extremely high and on developing brains, it acts even stronger than it does to adult brains,” Giles said.
To help combat the vaping epidemic, Chris Stitzle, superintendent at Southwest School Corporation said they installed vape detectors about three years ago.
“I think the real good thing about the vape detector is it gives us an opportunity to maybe catch a kid and get them into education and to learn more about the vape, the addictiveness of it, and to try and get them off the vape,” Stitzle said.
Students caught vaping at Southwest School Corporation receive a citation but are given the opportunity to participate in a program called In-Depth. The goal is to follow best practices at a school through education and getting the kids the help, they need.
“We have had a lot of kids that have been caught, that really want to quit using. So, I feel from that point of view, the vape detectors have been a positive thing,” Stitzle said.
Giles said it’s important to help students understand the dangers and why vaping is a bad idea and to help them find the resources they need.
“From a mental health standpoint. From a confidence standpoint to reject what all their peers are doing is a big piece of it,” Giles said. “When kids are caught vaping, look at restorative measures rather than behavioral punishments. Help them understand their trigger, if they want to quit, help them find the ways to quit.”