Middle and high school students often don’t know or acknowledge the health risks associated with e-cigarettes, says Matt Aiello, the dean of students at Lake Zurich High School.
“In many cases, students will minimize it. They don’t see it as big of a deal as the adults do,” Aiello said. “When I was young, we heard over and over again the ills of cigarettes. I feel the campaign to inform youth (about e-cigarettes) hasn’t been as consistent.”
Lake Zurich High will kick off its own campaign against vaping by hosting a panel discussion Monday, 7 to 8:30 p.m. in the school library. It will feature experts from Lake Zurich and beyond, and an opportunity for the audience to ask questions about e-cigarettes.
E-cigarettes are battery-powered devices that vaporize liquids called e-juice, which usually contain nicotine and other chemicals. According to the World Health Organization, the e-cigarette industry has grown from one manufacturer in China in 2005 to a $3 billion global business with 466 brands in 2014.
One reason health risks associated with e-cigarettes are not as well known among students is because there haven’t been as many scientific studies done compared to traditional tobacco products.
“That’s just because really hasn’t been enough time,” said Danielle Ryan, a community health specialist with the Lake County Health Department. “We know cigarettes are bad for your health conclusively because of all the years of research there have been. Unfortunately, it’s (e-cigarettes) just a newer product.”
Ryan, one of the speakers at the event, said the health department is not waiting to dissuade teenagers from vaping. The health department has been proactive in encouraging Lake County communities to raise to 21 the age to purchase tobacco products, including e-cigarettes.
The chemicals in e-juice can be harmful to users when vaporized, said Ryan, who is part of the health department’s Tobacco-Free Lake County effort. She added that nicotine, which is found in most e-cigarettes, is addictive and can affect brain development in youth.
Lake Zurich High’s Aiello said school officials want the panel discussion to be the first step in a longer campaign against vaping in Lake Zurich Unit District 95. He said the issue will be studied this summer.
Aiello said officials hope their efforts will reduce the number of students who vape. Some students have been caught trying to vape in class, he added.
“We want to get out ahead of it, to try to do things proactively in order to best support our students,” Aiello said. “We’ve got amazing kids here and we just want to help them make the right decisions.”
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