Hackensack Meridian Health recently announced that grants for school districts are now available as part of a $1 million “Take Vape Away” campaign to address the vaping epidemic. The campaign includes grants to school districts and community groups to launch buy-back programs, educational outreach and other strategies to combat vaping among middle school and high school students.

The deadline to apply for an anti-vaping grant is Nov. 30. Information about the grant program is available here.  Additional background information about the “Take Vape Away” campaign is here.

More than 1,000 patients have been treated for lung injuries associated with vaping across the United States. Twenty-three people have died, including a New Jersey woman and a Bronx 17-year-old, the youngest fatality in the U.S. More than one-third of the patients treated for vaping-related illnesses are 20 and younger.  The number of adolescents vaping has grown exponentially and now 1 in 4 students report using e-cigarettes, according to the CDC.

The network is investing $1 million in a comprehensive strategy to address the epidemic as follows:

  • A $200,000 grant program that includes up to $7,000 for local school districts and community organizations to institute measures to combat vaping, which includes launching buy-back programs or developing new programs.
  • Training 50 nurses to reach students at 100 schools to alert them of the perils of e-cigarettes, an investment of $50,000.
  • Working with the New Jersey Mental Health and Addiction Agencies to educate youth about the dangers of vaping.
  • Conducting a public health study by the Hackensack Meridian School of Medicine at Seton Hall University to identify the health impact from vaping and identifying best practices to combat the epidemic.

“Hackensack Meridian Health’s efforts will help prevent youth from starting to vape and assist those already using e-cigarettes to overcome their nicotine addiction,” said Acting Health Commissioner Judith Persichilli.  “These initiatives will build upon the state’s efforts to combat vaping and address the health effects that come along with e-cigarette use.”

Horizon Blue Cross and Blue Shield of New Jersey has also provided $100,000 in additional funding to help support the network’s grants for schools and youth organizations.

Network officials said they launched the campaign to combat disturbing trends. For example:

  • In 2018, the National Youth Tobacco Survey reported a 78% increase in high school students who reported using e-cigarettes in just a year.
  • Today, one-quarter of high school students said they have used e-cigarettes, the federal government reported.
  • Among middle school students, there was nearly a 50% increase in the number who reported vaping in a year.
  • Two-thirds of adolescents who vape believe they are only inhaling flavors – not nicotine or anything potentially dangerous, the federal government reports.
  • Students who vape are more likely to start smoking compared to non-users. Thirty-one percent of youth who use e-cigarettes started smoking while 8% of non-users started smoking.

Experts are still uncertain what is causing the serious lung injuries, but regulators and lawmakers are proposing banning some products. In New Jersey, a governor’s task force last month recommended that the Legislature ban the sale of flavored e-cigarettes, and to increase penalties for selling to minors, restricting on-line sales and other strategies to combat youth vaping.