Not so long ago, many of us believed “vaping” could be a solution to health, addiction and social problems caused by smoking tobacco.
E-cigarettes were said to alleviate issues related to secondhand smoke, and we were told vaping could be made non-addictive by removing nicotine. Cigarette smokers ingest all sorts of toxic chemicals into their lungs, and that was not seen to be a problem with vaping. It was said to have no cancer risk.
It was so safe, we were assured, that even teenagers could be allowed to join in.
We now know much of what we were told was not accurate.
While vaping may be better in some ways than smoking, in other ways it can be more hazardous, with negative effects seen more quickly. Across the nation, dozens of teens have gotten ill from ingesting substances via e-cigarettes. Some have died.
This is not so surprising. It took our nation decades to discover the true dangers of smoking. What will be discovered about vaping after 20 years of widespread use and study of the impacts?
Fortunately, society is not waiting to find out. Restrictions have been put on vaping, including a federal ban on flavors popular among young people. And schools, realizing the particular danger to teenagers, are cracking down.
This is not your father’s smokin’ in the boys’ room.
All Longview-area districts have policies designed to snuff out vaping on campus, beginning with automatic in-school suspension for those caught. That’s good, but as a story in Monday’s edition pointed out, some students are using devices that look like pens or other regular classroom items to vape — and actually doing it during class.
It seems that would be impossible but it is not, both because the smell can be much less offensive than a cigarette, and because students are filtering exhaled vapor through their clothes to hide it.
Worse yet, sometimes the vaping includes THC, the psychoactive ingredient in marijuana. That means students are getting high at school or in class with no one the wiser.
That means tough rules, even combined with a close watch, is never going to catch everyone. The schools are doing their part but the effort will fall short until parents and other adults step in.
The responsibility falls primarily on parents, many of whom may themselves have bought the story that vaping is better than smoking. These parents may think their high school children deserve freedom and that vaping is not a battle to be fought.
We send our children to school expecting educators to keep them safe, and the public often responds harshly when something goes wrong. In this instance, the schools are doing their part.
But addressing these dangers must begin at home. Vaping is not just a harmless habit and as usage grows we’re learning that with more certainty.
Parents, help our schools protect students. Talk to your children to let them know what kind of behavior you will accept. Make clear that vaping is not acceptable in most cases, and certainly not in school.