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Board of Education takes stand regarding e-cigarettes and vaping among teens.

October 7, 2019

The Board of Education of Unified School District No. 232 authorized legal counsel to file suit against JUUL, a manufacturer, distributor and seller of cigarette alternatives known as vaporizers or e-cigarettes.

This authorization will not require the school district to allocate any financial resources.

The Board of Education is taking this action in response to the increasing number of students using JUUL products at school. It is clear to the administration that student discipline alone regarding this particular behavior is not addressing the problem. Students using vaporizers and other e-cigarettes has caused an ongoing interruption to the learning environment. This issue is resulting in the diversion of resources in an attempt to abate and prevent the problem. Vaping poses a significant risk to the health and well-being of students.

The Surgeon General of the United States issued an advisory on e-cigarette use among youth, which emphasized, “...the importance of protecting our children from a lifetime of nicotine addiction and associated health risks by immediately addressing the epidemic of youth e-cigarette use.” The advisory noted, “Nicotine exposure during adolescence can impact learning, memory, and attention. Using nicotine in adolescence can also increase risk for future addiction to other drugs.”

Why take a stand?
“Vaping among teens is an epidemic and, as community leaders, we’re taking a stand to draw attention to this growing problem,” said Dr. Frank Harwood, Superintendent of Schools. “Unfortunately, this issue has entered our schools. Within the last three years, USD 232 saw a significant increase in the number of students possessing and/or using e-cigarettes on campus. Parents and students have asked us to help them address this trend.”

USD 232 experienced a significant increase in suspensions related to vaping/e-cigarettes during the two previous school years. As a result, the district is exploring other ways to assist students with this issue, which would include additional education programs regarding vaping and making families aware of other support resources in the county to help with addiction and cessation. Last year the district increased education around vaping, holding a community event to educate families on the latest trends and research around vaping. Another parent meeting is being planned for the current school year.

The graphic below shows the increase in the number of student suspensions in USD 232 (grades 6-12) over a three-year period related to vaping. A typical suspension for a first time offense related to e-cigarettes/vaping is three days. During that time, there were only two (2) suspensions for tobacco products.

Bar graph showing increase in number of student suspensions related to vaping from 2016-2019.

The impact on schools is apparent, as this issue is negatively affecting the educational process for students, requiring resources and time in an attempt to abate and prevent the problem. Discipline alone is not effective. Students are continuing this behavior even with Kansas law prohibiting the purchase/possession of electronic cigarettes by minors.

Settlement Funds
If there happens to be a settlement, the intention of the Board of Education is to use those funds to offset costs related to abating the issue, education programs regarding vaping, and any future costs the district may incur to assist students concerning vaping. The Board would need to take future action to direct how settlement funds, if any, would be utilized.

Important: This action by the Board of Education does not require the district to allocate financial resources, as that will be the responsibility of legal counsel.

Other School Districts
The Boards of Education in other districts in the county are also taking a stand regarding the use of e-cigarettes and vaping among teens. As this is a growing national concern, there are districts in other states taking similar action.

Information from U.S. Surgeon General
Know the risks: e-Cigarettes & Young People

Statistics from Surgeon General of the United States Public Health Service

  • E-cigarette use among U.S. middle and high school students increased 900 percent during 2011-15.
  • In 2018, more than 3.6 million youth, including 1 in 5 high school students and 1 in 20 middle school students, used e-cigarettes.
  • Current e-cigarette use increased 78 percent among high school students during the past year, from 11.7 percent to 20.8 percent in 2018.