NASHUA — City students said Monday that although many teens are still vaping, more than people realize, some youth are making an effort to stop in light of recently reported illnesses and deaths associated with the habit.
“But so many kids are now addicted, so they can’t go without it,” Haleigh Swabowicz, a junior at Nashua High School South, said during a roundtable discussion on the topic.
Sen. Jeanne Shaheen, Mayor Jim Donchess and Principal Keith Richard joined about 20 students to talk candidly about the vaping problem that has resulted in a total of six deaths in Minnesota, California and Indiana; vaping has also caused an estimated 380 cases of lung illnesses that have spread to 36 states.
“All of the high school students vape, even if you say it or not,” Aaliyah Ortiz, a junior at Nashua High School South, said following Monday’s event.
Still, some agreed that many student athletes, and others, are starting to become concerned about the potential health effects and are beginning to back off from using vaping products or e-cigarettes. Several students said parents simply are not aware that their children are vaping, or they do not understand what it is.
“I do believe that our parents aren’t educated enough to help us through this process,” said Jeffrey Lamb, a senior at Nashua High School South. Students need to get involved and help other students, according to Lamb, who said youth are more receptive to individuals their own age. Kim Coronis of Breathe New Hampshire praised the students for speaking out on the topic.
“You are the voices we need to hear from,” said Coronis, stressing that vaping devices — even if they are nicotine free — are now banned from public school grounds and school buildings. While many students agreed that education and knowledge is key, they said large assembly presentations with a stranger speaking out about vaping and its health impacts will not solve the problem.
“It is a very tricky situation, and no matter what we say, if kids want to do it, they will do it,” said Ainsley Mazerolle, a senior at Nashua High School South who is active with the school’s Students Against Destructive Decisions club.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recently reported new data showing that 27.5% of high school students have vaped in the past year, an increase of 1,700% since 2011.
“Vaping has become a significant problem for everyone in our community, especially young people,” said Donchess. Shaheen agreed, calling vaping an epidemic and a serious challenge.
With young brains still developing, Shaheen said, the long-term health implications of vaping are still being determined.
She is hoping to impose fees on e-cigarette companies, which could be used to help collect data and research on its health impacts.
It is still not clear how the Food and Drug Administration’s recent ban on all flavored e-cigarettes will change how teens vape, but all of them participating in Monday’s roundtable discussion agreed that traditional nicotine cigarettes are not used by today’s youth.
“Our generation was so new to (vaping),” Ortiz said, adding no one really knew the harm when they started.