FCS partners with municipalities and law enforcement to create anti-vaping campaign

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Disposable vaping devices like these were recently confiscated from students at Flushing High School. Photo by Ben Gagnon

RINSING – In recent years, Flushing Community Schools has faced an increase in teen vaping incidents, prompting the district to use a combination of enforcement and education to stem the tide.

Now, FCS is partnering with local police and the City of Flushing to organize a campaign to educate students and parents about the dangers of vaping and to limit teen vaping in the community.

As part of the initiative, school, city, and law enforcement officials establish a three-part goal: reduce student vaping in Flushing schools; reduce or mitigate inappropriate disposal of vaping devices on streets and parks; and prevent local businesses from selling vaping products to minors and those under 21.

Flushing High School principal Jason Melynchek said it’s been increasingly difficult for school staff to catch students with vapes, primarily due to the design of the devices.

“A lot of these vapes look like highlighters or thumb drives and they’re easy to slip into a pocket or purse,” he says. “Some kids are also sharing vapes, which poses a health risk, especially post-COVID.”

Melynchek said while most students who have been caught vaping are generally cooperative, some have been caught vaping multiple times.

According to school policy, a first offense for possession or use of a vape results in a three-day suspension for students. School Resource Officers can also issue civil tickets to students who are caught smoking or vaping.

To discourage re-vaping, FCS offers first-time offenders the opportunity to attend a voluntary diversion program called Healthy Futures, which teaches children about the harmful effects of using vapes/e-cigarettes and provides resources on how to to stop. Students who complete the two-hour course — which is taught by an FHS health professor — will one day have their suspensions removed.

Flushing Superintendent Matt Shanafelt said the course was well received by parents and students.

“We hope class will make a bigger difference than suspensions and fines,” he said. “We want children to learn from their mistakes and make better decisions that will impact them for the rest of their lives.”

Meanwhile, the Township of Flushing has also taken an interest in reducing teen vaping in high school and middle school, both of which are within the township’s jurisdiction. In 2020, the township passed a Youth Nicotine Ordinance that sets guidelines for civil offenses and misdemeanors for minors who are caught smoking or are in possession of a vaping product, tobacco or nicotine on school grounds.

Under the ordinance, adults are also not allowed to use vapes on school property or at school events.

Flushing Township Police Chief Dennie VanAlstine said school resource officers (SROs) play an important role in tracking teen vaping in high school and college.

“We work collaboratively with the schools if we have a common problem with a repeat offender, and we will write offenses if the schools deem it necessary,” he said. “Just having the presence of an ORS in the hallways also helps deter students from bringing (vapes) around.”

Beyond the school setting, Flushing officials are concerned that students will have easy access to vaping devices within the community.

Flushing Police Chief Steve Colosky said he received several tips from residents that some local businesses were selling vapes to minors. To anticipate the problem, he said his department would use the recently passed Michigan Tobacco 21 legislation, which is a series of state laws that collectively increased the minimum legal age for the sale of tobacco, vapor and tobacco products. nicotine base from 18 to 21 years old. , in accordance with federal law.

“Our Community Resource Officer will visit businesses that sell tobacco and vaping products, giving them information about the 21 Tobacco Laws and warning them not to sell to minors or anyone under the age of 21. “, said Colosky. “They will get a citation if they break the law. We take a zero tolerance approach.

Vaping waste is another issue the city is working to address. Flushing Mayor Joseph Karlichek said it’s not uncommon for the Department of Public Works (DPW) to find discarded vaping devices while sweeping and maintaining streets in city parks.

“From a public health perspective, it’s a danger,” he said. “We don’t want young children picking them up on the street or elsewhere and being exposed to the chemicals and caustic liquids used in vapes.”

Karlichek said the city might consider setting up some sort of vape recycling/disposal station around the parks. In the meantime, he said more parents and businesses need to take responsibility.

“It is not acceptable for companies to sell these things to children or for parents to allow their children to have these devices,” he said. “We also hope to persuade people 21 and older not to buy underage vapes. We all need to work together to reduce the use of vapes with our youth.

Over the next few weeks, the city will host a social media campaign to raise awareness of the prevalence of teen vaping and how the community can help reduce it.

According to the 2022 National Youth Tobacco Survey (NYTS) conducted by the FDA and CDC, more than 2.5 million high school and college students currently use e-cigarettes or vapes. Of this number, more than 1 in 4 students use vapes daily, and almost 85% of students who use electronic cigarettes prefer flavored vapes (fruits, candies, desserts, etc.). Disposable vapes have become the most popular smoking devices used by teens.

As the NYTS survey revealed, young people are not always aware that e-cigarettes and vapes contain nicotine, or they perceive vaping products to be harmless. According to the FDA, teens are at a higher risk of vape addiction because exposure to nicotine during adolescence can disrupt normal brain development. Studies from the Stanford University School of Medicine have also shown that flavorings and other ingredients in vapes can lead to heart disease and lung damage.

For more information on teen vaping, visit cdc.gov or fda.gov.

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