Editorial: Different approach needed for teens and vaping

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Anderson Herald Bulletin

The prevalence of electronic cigarette use or “vaping” among middle and high school students suggests that a different approach may be necessary to address this dangerous trend.

The 2023 National Youth Tobacco Survey results suggest a nearly 4% drop in e-cigarette usage among middle and high school students, which may seem like cause for celebration but still indicates that about 2.8 million middle and high school students are using tobacco products.

Intersect, which heads up the local Students Against Destructive Decisions chapter, has been advocating for a change in schools’ approach to tobacco use.

Teens smoking, and now vaping, has been often treated as a behavioral issue rather than an addiction.

Often the punishment involves suspension from school for a period of time, which may very well put them in an environment where they have even more opportunities to engage in tobacco use.

Adults who are addicted to nicotine aren’t punished. They’re offered resources and encouragement to help them quit, and this is what youth need as well.

The National Youth Tobacco Survey was conducted by self-report, and we can almost certainly say that many more teens are using e-cigarettes while being untruthful when asked. It’s not breaking news that teenagers will lie if they’re afraid of getting in trouble.

E-cigarettes were initially marketed to smokers as a way to get a nicotine fix where smoking is prohibited or as a safer alternative to cigarettes.

In fairness, vaping may be less dangerous than smoking, but that doesn’t mean it’s not a harmful addiction. Cigarettes are less dangerous than heroin, but that doesn’t mean either is a good idea.

Parents and educators should provide students with facts and resources needed to quit tobacco products or avoid picking up the habit at all.

Relying on condemnation and punishment clearly didn’t work with cigarette smoking, and it won’t work with vaping.