On Wednesday Sept. 18, 2019 Central High School hosted an informational presentation to staff, students, and guardians. This included a factual powerpoint about vaping, e-cigarettes, juuls, and the consequences of using these products in Hernando Schools.
The goal of this presentation was to get the facts out, to share multiple ways of prevention. Throughout the presentation they had a few people speak, Janice Smith who is a part of the substance abuse program spoke out about the district’s tobacco, smoking, drug, and vaping policies. Deputy Shane Landgraff, a Hernando County school resource officer addressed the legal implications and the many consequences of students vaping during school and possession of the many devices on school premises. Throughout the presentation, staff and students who are a part of a program known as S.W.A.T (Students Working Against Tobacco) spoke out about how their schools address the crisis of youth vaping.
Jancie Smith's goal is to educate students about the dangerous effects of vaping, which has been glorified with all the products and flavors. Vaping has turned into a crisis all over America. Seven deaths of children have been linked to vaping in six states. According to the FDA, as of April 2019 there have been 35 reported seizures related to vaping. Janice stated that in the last three years in Hernando County schools the violations of vaping have gone from very few, about 32 cases per year to 300 cases per year. “We’ve been in school a month and have already had 50 incidents related to vaping,” Smith said.
School resource officer Shane Landgraff went into the legal matters. Many kids are finding a way to switch out cartridges to THC. “Kids don’t understand the legal matters,” Deputy Landgraff said. He then outlined the consequences for first, second and third offenses.
First offense: One to three days of in school suspension (ISS) or Out of School Suspension (OSS) or any combination of both and referral to the tobacco abuse program. Failure to attend tobacco program will result in two additional days of OSS for high school. For elementary/middle school students one day of OSS and referral to substance abuse staff for an individual tobacco education program.
Second offense: Five days ISS/OSS or any combination of both for high school. For elementary, three to five days ISS/OSS or any combination of both.
Third offense: Ten days OSS and possible recommendation for alternative school placement for all levels.
Deputy Landgraff shared that they are starting to see an increase in vaping in middle school now as well. “We see a report related to vaping almost everyday, it’s so much easier to hide now with the products they sell,” Landgraff stated. With juvenile citation of nicotine under the age of 18, you have to pay a fee at the courthouse. If caught with THC wax, oils, or butter, if it’s a certain amount, kids are being charged with felonies.
The SWAT team, organizes many events to educate their fellow students. They have had SWAT walks, videos, skits and the most recently added the vaping 911 curriculum. They produce videos and perform skits to show how vaping can affect your daily life and illustrate the detrimental health effects of vaping. Vaping 911 is a research based vaping and tobacco curriculum which includes methods for becoming nicotine free.
Teacher Rosemarie Poluchowizz, the leader of the SWAT team at Nature Coast, Bradley Larson SWAT student president at Nature Coast, and John Grecco, student secretary of SWAT at Nature Coast have many plans for the upcoming homecoming event. The theme for homecoming at the school this year is dancing through the decades. The SWAT team has come up with the idea of ‘smoking through the decades’ to go with homecoming to help address the effects of vaping. They will be decorating some hallways with different ways smoking has changed through the years. Poluchowizz stated, “We need to help educate everyone on the effects. I feel most parents or guardians don’t even know what they are buying their kids.”
The SWAT team at Nature Coast has about 40 students and is growing. The kids are now coming in with ideas on how students can beat the pressure of the trend. “I know many kids that think smoking a cigarette is gross or would never do it but have no problem picking up the vaping habit,” Bradley Larson stated.
On September 12, 2019, Jackie Toledo, Florida House Representative, introduced the anti vaping bill. This bill includes raising the age for tobacco sales to 21 including non tobacco flavored e-cigarettes and vapor cartridges. If the age increases hopefully the effects on students in our schools will go down.
One by one, we can make a difference but together we can thrive.