With a growing number of students participating in vaping – smoking e-cigarettes often laced with addictive nicotine and sweet flavors — the New Jersey School Boards Association will be posting a series of videos to help inform parents and educators about the phenomenon.

The first video in the series is available below, featuring Cristina Martins of Tobacco Free for a Healthy New Jersey and the Southern New Jersey Perinatal Cooperative.

After a number of its students were sickened in December, a New Jersey school district issued warnings about the dangers of e-cigarettes in connection with a particularly potent brand of the flavored electronic nicotine sticks.

“We are writing today to ask for your help in discussing a serious topic with your children,” said a Dec. 20 letter to parents of North Warren Regional High School in Blairstown. “We have had several students fall ill after inhaling substances from vape pens. This is a burgeoning problem.”

Tina Ritchie, North Warren Regional’s director of guidance and dean of students, said the district confiscated four vape devices from students. “Those devices were turned over to our local police department. Just as cigarettes are not permitted on school grounds, vape pens are likewise not permitted,” she said in her letter. As with tobacco cigarettes, it is illegal for minors to buy e-cigarettes in New Jersey.

The Centers for Disease Control has issued a warning about vaping.

“Because your brain is still developing, scientific studies show that it isn’t safe for you to use any tobacco product that contains nicotine, including e-cigarettes,” states the warning by the Centers for Disease Control’s Office on Smoking and Health. “Whether you get nicotine from an e-cigarette or a cigarette, it’s still risky.”

North Warren Regional is not alone in warning parents of the effects of e-cigarettes. Districts around the state have held workshops to address the issue.

Electronic cigarettes are increasingly popular among middle and high school students, according to an article titled, “What Every Parent Needs to Know about Vaping,” published by in October by New Jersey Family magazine.

No school is immune to the trend. “It’s happening at Millburn. It’s happening everywhere,”  William Miron, principal at Millburn High School, told the publication.

Experts say high-achieving, stressed teens seem especially drawn to nicotine’s effect, making the habit pervasive throughout New Jersey middle and high schools.

What’s Vaping?

In short, it’s inhaling the vapor produced by heating an e-liquid (or e-juice). The liquid is typically nicotine (though not always) mixed with chemicals and minty or fruity flavorings.  Personal delivery devices look less like smoking paraphernalia and more like elegant pens and unassuming flash drives that can be decorated with stickers, skins and other flair.

Because their vapors are essentially odorless and invisible, students are finding it easy to pull hits wherever—at their lockers, in the school bathroom or even in class when their teachers’ backs are turned. Juul, the e-cigarette brand that so powerfully dominates the youth market it’s become a verb, uses proprietary e-liquid pods in a sleek piece of tech that recharges via USB port.

Over 2.1 million youth are current e-cig users, and 43 percent who used e-cigs said they tried them because of the appealing flavors, according the Center for Disease Control’s 2018 Truth Initiative.

More students are using e-cigarettes on a regular basis. Twenty-eight percent of high school e-cigarette users said they vaped for 20 or more days during a month in 2018 – a significant increase from 2017 when only 20 percent of e-cigarette users reported vaping for 20 or more days per month.

Vaping – Legal and Policy Implications

Recent years have seen an unprecedented rise in student use of vaping devices, raising the dual concerns of student health and safety, as well as appropriate district responses to this escalating health crisis. Join us for a webinar about legal and policy issues related to student vaping, including, but not limited to, student discipline, policy language, substance use and drug testing, and privacy and surveillance.

In addition, in the weeks ahead, the NJSBA will be posting a series of videos providing expert analysis of the issue. Links to the videos and other resources will be published in School Board Notes as they become available.

The New Jersey Prevention Network (NJPN) coordinates Tobacco-Free for a Healthy New Jersey (TFHNJ), a statewide project which focuses on increasing New Jersey residents’ access to smoke-free air where they work, live and play. The project is funded by the New Jersey Department of Health, Office of Tobacco Control, Nutrition and Fitness to provide regional outreach efforts in partnership with Atlantic Prevention Resources and Center for Prevention and Counseling.