by Mike Knaak
As news of vaping-relating illnesses and deaths mount, an Oct. 8 program in Sartell takes on added urgency.
The Sartell-St. Stephen school district’s Substance-Free Coalition has scheduled Summer Hagy from the American Health Association to speak on the health dangers of vaping and e-cigarettes. The event is 6 p.m. at Sartell Middle School and the public is invited, especially students and parents.
“What is scary is that kids think it is a safe alternative to smoking, but it’s not,” said School Resource Officer Rob Lyon.
Lyon, who is assigned to the high school this year but served at the middle school last year, said he’s seen one cigarette violation in two years but the same time 10-12 vaping violations.
“Kids see friends do it and think it’s acceptable,” Lyon said.
Vaping, like tobacco products, is legal for people 18 or older. But in school, there’s zero tolerance for vaping and tobacco products on school grounds. That includes parents and visitors.
The coalition promotes helping students make positive decisions about being substance-free. The group sponsors monthly meetings the second Tuesday of each month.
Matt Peterson is the school’s therapist and chemical health consultant. He sees vaping as one of the four main abused substances along with marijuana, prescription drugs and alcohol.
The Center’s for Disease Control reports 805 cases of lung injury as of Sept. 26 in 46 states, including Minnesota. Seventeen deaths have been confirmed including one in Minnesota.
The CDC collected age and sex information from 373 cases. Of those cases, 72 percent are males, two-thirds are ages 18 to 34 and 16 percent are children under age 18. All cases have a history of vaping.
Peterson would like to see more educational awareness, limitations on advertising and making them less accessible.
“Is it a gateway drug? We don’t know,” Peterson said. “But we shouldn’t have to wait 10-15 years to find out its bad.”
Peterson says he’s available to help parents who suspect their child is vaping and want to get them to stop. Parents can contact him through the high school or by email.
“Don’t wait for the crisis point,” he said.