According to the National Institute of Health’s 2019 Monitoring the Future survey, 11.7% of 12th graders reported vaping nicotine on a daily basis, and 25.5% reported vaping nicotine in the past month. As vaping continues to become a widespread issue in middle and high schools across the nation, parents, communities, and schools alike are looking for ways to prevent and reduce teen vaping.
The habits developed during the teenage years can have a great impact on a teen’s development and health. Nicotine, being one of the most addictive chemicals, is particularly dangerous to the developing brain. It is much easier to prevent someone from starting to smoke or vape than it is to get them to quit.
Here are some practical steps schools can take to prevent and reduce teen vaping.
Start Tobacco Education Classes
Education is one of the most effective preventative measures when it comes to nicotine use. People, who are more educated about the potential effects of tobacco use, may be less likely to start vaping or smoking.
Unfortunately, evidence shows that many teens are not very educated when it comes to e-cigarettes. In fact, up to 13.7% of
teens who vape “don’t know” what is in their e-cig. Some are even unaware that there is nicotine in their flavored liquids at all.
As a result, a great place to start with vaping prevention is with tobacco education classes. This includes educating teachers, staff, students, and parents about the dangers of vaping. For instance, teachers should be trained on how to identify vaping devices in the classroom – especially because newer devices are small, sleek, and discreet. Teachers should also be armed with a curriculum to provide students about vaping information, dangers, and statistics.
While class-wide or school-wide education efforts can help prevent vaping, peer-to-peer education may be even more effective. Schools can set zero-tolerance policies and parents can threaten punishment, but some teens will still find ways to vape. This is because some teens may be more likely to listen to their peers than to an authority figure, because young people like to mimic what their friends do.
Peer-to-peer education can come in many forms. Schools can have students break into small groups and conduct their own research projects on vaping, or they can recruit peer volunteers to hold question and answer sessions with groups of students. Studies have found that peer education is a highly effective method, and one of the preferred tools in changing teen behaviors related to tobacco.
Getting Parents Involved in Tobacco-Related Education
Parental smoking is said to be one of the biggest risk factors for youth smoking, and the same can be said for vaping. Parents, who vape, may have teens, who are more likely to vape. As a result, it is important that parents are on-board with all tobacco-related education and preventative measures. This starts with setting a good example and not vaping entirely or not vaping around one’s children.
Other steps schools can encourage parents to take include:
- Restricting access to vaping and tobacco-containing products
- Continuing an open conversation with teens about tobacco use and vaping
- Preparing kids for how to deal with peer pressure
- Establishing a smoke and vape-free home
Implement an Anonymous Reporting System to Report Vaping On Campus
If schools are looking to prevent and reduce teen vaping, they should regularly review and update their policy on tobacco use. While doing so, they may want to consider implementing an anonymous reporting system that allows students to anonymously report other students who vape on campus.
Anonymity is important. Without it, students may be afraid to report others for vaping, because they fear retaliation. However, anonymous programs may make students more likely to report others for vaping. This system can be as simple as an online form or drop-box in the office.
Then, students, who are suspected of vaping, should be offered counseling and resources – not strictly punishment alone. Vaping is a form of substance abuse and nicotine is addictive, so a “one-and-done” consequence or punishment will rarely stop a young person from vaping in the long-term. While it may be necessary to reprimand a repeat offender with in-school or out-of-school suspension, the student should also be offered counseling and vaping cessation resources, as well.
Offer Counseling for Stress, Mental Health, and More
People with mental health conditions and other addictive disorders use tobacco at higher rates than the general population. Other conditions like chronic stress or lack of time management can also increase tobacco use. At the same time, evidence-based tobacco cessation treatment involves behavioral support and counseling.
If a school truly wants to make an impact on the number of teens, who vape, they need to offer counseling sessions for stress, mental health, time management, and more. Counseling and therapy can encourage teens to live healthier lives all around and help give them support when trying to quit vaping.
Provide Access to Smoking/Vaping Cessation Programs
Schools can go the extra mile to reduce teen vaping by providing access to teen smoking and vaping cessation programs. One type of program that is suggested by the American Lung Association is Not On Tobacco (N-O-T). N-O-T has had major success in helping teens stop smoking.
N-O-T takes a holistic approach to each session, and it is designed with teenagers in mind. Over the course of ten 50-minute sessions, it addresses only the issues that are specifically important to each teen and provides them with strategies on how to change their tobacco use habits.
Regardless of what approach a school takes, it is important to recognize that schools can play a major role in the health and development of teens. They can even help reduce rates of tobacco, drug, and alcohol use. Start implementing these strategies today to work towards a vape-free campus.