Last month Denver students, parents, and teachers made the shift back to in-person learning after almost 18 months away from the classroom.
With school in session, local educators are tasked with navigating an array of concerns about students’ health and safety — the least of which should be concern about a resurgence of vaping and e-cigarette use among Denver’s kids.
Before the COVID-19 shutdown last year, youth e-cigarette use was a huge problem nationwide. It is estimated that roughly 3.6 million kids were using e-cigarettes across the country. Here in Denver, data from 2019 showed that roughly one in five high school students were using e-cigarettes, with the highest usage rates among white (25.7%), Hispanic (18.4%), and multiracial students (27.9%). We know that vaping is a highly social behavior and young people often have access to these products through their friends and peers. A recent study showed that over half of high school e-cigarette users reported getting e-cigarettes from a peer, like a classmate or a friend. During the shutdown, there was a slight decrease in youth e-cigarette use because young people who used these products at school and social events had fewer opportunities to do so.
Now, local advocates and educators are concerned that we could see a revival in those numbers both because of in-person peer pressure and the simple fact that flavored tobacco products are still widely available in our community.
With nearly 20% of Denver high schoolers using e-cigarettes, protecting the health of our kids must be a top priority. E-cigarettes contain high levels of nicotine that harm brain development, affect learning, and prime the brain for addiction to other drugs. Studies have also shown that kids who use e-cigarettes are more likely to become cigarette smokers later in life and experience negative health outcomes caused by prolonged tobacco use and addiction. That’s why the U.S. Surgeon General has declared e-cigarette use an epidemic among youth.
Angela Cobian – Gazette – 2021-09-22.