Once considered a safer alternative to traditional tobacco-based smoking, the growth of electronic cigarettes, popularly referred to as vaping, is now feared as a mechanism for converting teenagers to smokers. At Evanston Township High School, however, vaping is considered just as bad as smoking.
Many decades ago, the school actually had smoking lounges, or areas set aside for those who smoke–students and faculty alike–to do so without inconveniencing those who did not smoke.
In later years, however, as evidence accumulated that smoking was indeed harmful to one’s health, cigarette smoking was banned from the school.
An article this week in the New York Times suggested that high schools and middle schools around the country are alarmed at the increase in vaping among their students. It noted that at nearby New Trier High School, administrators are considering adding special detection devices in restrooms, similar to smoke alarms, that will alert the staff when vaping is occurring.
At ETHS, Dr. Keith A. Robinson, associate principal for educational services, told Evanston Now that the school does not suspend a student found vaping on the school grounds. Instead, it takes it as an opportunity to counsel them on the health aspects of electronic smoking.
“So far, vaping has not been a problem,” he said, “but we look upon it as an educational opportunity, rather than as a significant offense that requires punitive action.”
He added: “We do notify the student’s parents, however.”
As Superintendent Eric Witherspoon put it: “Each generation finds ways to experiment with things that are health risks and our adult/parent/school community has to keep informed and provide appropriate interventions to help guide young people in developing healthy lifestyles.”
Robinson indicated that the school considers the parents as an integral part of the student’s education when it comes to dealing with the health consequences of vaping and that it will keep parents informed about the situation.
The Center for Tobacco Products, operating under the auspices of the Federal Food and Drug Administration, recently released a report, “Public Health Consequences of E-Cigarettes.”
The report is a comprehensive and systematic review of the literature that evaluates the evidence about e-cigarettes and health, highlights gaps that are a priority for future research, and makes recommendations to improve the quality of this research.
The authors concluded that evidence suggests that e-cigarettes are a healthier alternative for the active cigarette smoker, but concern was expressed about young non-smokers who might look upon it as a relatively safe habit to pursue.
The problem for young people, however, is that many of the e-cigarette products contain nicotine, which is highly addictive and can lead in some cases to the more toxic results that come from smoking traditional tobacco products.
At ETHS, in any event, administrators are alert to the adverse possibilities and, said Mr. Robinson, they are developing a data base that will enable them to track the usage by its students so that they can take appropriate action as it becomes necessary.