MISSOULA – Wednesday the FDA announced that teenage use of e-cigarettes or vaping has “reached epidemic proportions”
Missoula County Public Schools aren’t exempt to this national problem.
“The FDA yesterday termed it an epidemic and I would say that’s not an overstatement,” MCPS superintendent Mark Thane said. “What we have seen with vaping is that students across virtually all demographics are impacted and we have seen a significant use of vaping.”
MCPS has included vaping in their anti-tobacco curriculum for health enhancement classes. They have also worked the phrase “nicotine innovations” into their student code of conduct policies in order to include vaping in their anti-tobacco policies.
“To simply reference e-cigarettes wasn’t appropriate, so we’ve talked in more general terms with any nicotine innovations to capture all,” Thane said.
Vaping has sometimes been marketed as a safer alternative to smoking. For an adult that might be true, but the FDA says that the elevated nicotine levels can harm the addiction centers of a developing brain.
“Students are still experiencing brain development and their physical development and I think the introduction of any foreign substances that are inappropriate,” Thane said. “Drugs, alcohol tobacco, the nicotine certainly has long term repercussions and I think with nicotine specifically here there’s an addictive issue that also needs to be addressed and again perceptions are that this is different than smoking tobacco but i think long term health consequences are not fully understood and certainly the fact that it is still a nicotine product gives us cause for concern.”
MCPS says that going forward they hope more data can be provided to build a better picture of the effects of vaping and how to curb students using these products in the future.
“I think developing some data. Come to fully understand the problem and how we respond to it. I think there will be some important conversations at the state level and with our colleagues across Montana,” Thane said. “This is not a problem that’s unique to Missoula. Certainly, state and national response is something that we will monitor and that may influence how we respond.”