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Curbing the vaping epidemic

ALBANY, N.Y. (NEWS10) - One out of 10 high school students is using e-cigarettes. The most popular type is the sleek looking and discreet, Juul. It's marketed as a safer alternative to smoking. However, for those who have never smoked before, this device is getting kids addicted to nicotine and it is harmful.

Senior Brody Peacock has seen students Juuling at Stillwater High School in the past. “I mean ya know in the bathroom and stuff, but I’m in the classroom most of the time. I feel like the harmful side effects of cigarettes themselves we’ve been educated about it for decades now, but this is sort of the new fad."

The FDA calls Juuling among teens an epidemic. Juuling or vaping involves puffing on vaporized liquid nicotine. It's heated up with a coil inside a "flash-drive like" pod. But many kids are unaware they're inhaling nicotine according to a local pediatrician,  Dr. Nathan Graber with St. Peters Pediatrics in Clifton Park. Graber says nicotine can be harmful particularly to the developing brain and with adolescents, their brains are not done developing.

A lure - the liquid comes in appealing flavors for teens and tweens, like bubble gum and creme brulee, and plenty of others. Dr. Michael Johnson, principal at Stillwater High School, knew he had to educate himself after getting wind of the Juuling problem in his own school last year. The Juul pen is so discreet, kids can Juul right under the teacher's nose. There's often no odor detected because kids can blow the vapor into their sleeve and it will dissipate.

Dr. Johnson says, "that became a real crisis for me. You can be in a classroom, I can have this in my pocket, I can literally vape in the classroom." He confiscated Juuls as students reported other students.  He also took it further, researching and making his own presentation to educate teachers, staff and the student body, exposing the real deal. He learned just ingesting the liquid nicotine at 400 degrees has a quite an impact on your lungs and that there’s also formaldehyde involved and other chemicals being inhaled.

That's why Juuling could cause cancer. Other long-term health risks include an increase in heart rate and blood pressure, reduced ability to stay focused and pay attention, nausea and vomiting and nicotine addiction. That addiction is now leading teens who've never smoked traditional cigarettes, to take up that habit. Pediatrician, Dr. Graber explained, "we’re creating a whole other generation of kids who will grow up to be adults who are addicted to nicotine from e-cigarettes AND other tobacco products as well.

At Stillwater High, Dr. Johnson took a no tolerance approach. Anyone caught Juuling in school would be suspended five days. However, if they were caught Juuling in the classroom, Johnson would call for a superintendent's hearing and actually keep the student out of school on a longer-term basis. It worked. Last spring and so far this year, Johnson has seen a huge decrease in teens Juuling at school. He's shared his presentation with other area principals and educated parents too.

Despite the positive change at school, Montana Marinello says social media entices many to try Juuling elsewhere. Marinello says, “I feel like kids do it because of social media and they think it’s the cool thing.  They see celebrities doing it, so they think it’s okay." Marinello says she's made the choice to stay away from something she's learned is harmful. Education may be the best weapon in fighting the epidemic. Brody Peacock remembers his principal's presentation about vaping well. “The side effects,  and not only how it could affect us right now, but for the rest of our lives."

Stillwater High students were also told how expensive the vaping habit is, with one student admitting to spending $100 a week. Students were told how they're seemingly being used by manufacturers to try to get them hooked on nicotine. You need to be 18 to buy vaping products, but older teens can easily buy them for younger ones. To try to curb the epidemic, The FDA recently gave Juul and other vaping manufacturers a deadline to submit plans to reduce teenage use.


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