BIRMINGHAM, Ala. (WIAT) — According to the Alabama Department of Public Health, E-cigarettes, commonly known as vapes, are experiencing rapid growth in popularity amongst teens and young adults, causing concern in schools across Central Alabama.
COMPACT, a local organization that helps students break through addiction and mental health struggles, has partnered with schools in Alabaster, Hoover, Vestavia Hills, Shelby County and Pelham to bring awareness to the lasting effects vaping can have, especially on young adults.
COMPACT’s Community Resource Coordinator Janae Pinson said vaping is present in every school regardless of socio-economic status.
“Because they may be addicted to it, now they’re experiencing other side effects from it such depression, anxiety, mood swings, lots of different psychological changes,” said Pinson. “Because their brains are so young, they’re not able to handle that type of chemical going into their body.”
These students are putting themselves at risk for things like addiction at a young age, lung damage and possibly coming in contact with other drugs vapes can be laced with like fentanyl, Pinson said.
Vape products are made available in many different forms and can be disguised to look like everyday objects such as flash drives, pens, highlighters and candy.
Pinson said students can sometimes get away with bringing vape devices into school to use and sell because of this. Additionally, Pinson said oftentimes students are illegally getting their hands on vapes and selling them to one another at school, bathrooms being a hot spot.
“To a normal person that’s not really educated they would look at that and think, ‘Oh well it’s just candy. No big deal. Or it’s just a highlighter.’ But I can tell you as a former teacher, I saw it in my school where I taught,” said Pinson.
“They have the highlighters and the pins and they’re going to the bathroom and they’re using them. Or they’re hiding it easily from their parents. So, the biggest hurdle that we have to get over is how to just change the packaging so that it’s not appealing to students and is also not easily concealed.”
This is partially why COMPACT is partnering with schools- to brainstorm preventative measures, like the vape detectors that have been installed in Pelham High School.
Pelham City Schools also has an online course available to all students that works to educate them on the lasting effects vaping can have.
Like Pinson, Assistant Super Intendent Floyd Collins said by vaping students can come into contact with chemicals their bodies are not built to handle.
“That’s why prevention is the key,” said Collins. “If we can educate them so that they don’t start and work with these addictive substances at an early age, then long term the health benefits will greatly out way them being addicted to a substance at such a young and impressionable age.”
COMPACT and the schools they work with also note it is important for parents to stay involved in their children’s lives. They recommend keeping an eye out for changes in their mood or behavior that could signify a child’s involvement in something like vaping.
For more information about resources available to students and their families, you can click here.
COMPACT also has ‘Talk Lines’ available for students and their parents:
Main Line: 205-605-1824
Parent Talk Line: 205-605-1827
Teen Talk Line: 205-605-1830