Let’s Talk Vaping

There is no sugar coating the truth: real danger is lurking behind the sleek design and sweet flavors of e-cigarettes. The use of these devices and the vaping trend has been named the most serious adolescent public-health crisis our country has faced in decades.

Vaping and the use of e-cigarettes is the fastest growing trend among teens. According to the 2017 Ottawa County Youth Assessment Survey, 1 out of every 4 teens has used a “vape” in the past month. While updated study results will be forthcoming, the rapid growth of this trend suggests that the new numbers will paint an even more harrowing picture for the families in our community.

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Nationwide data and graphic source: Center for Disease Control and Prevention, 2019

 

At Jenison Public Schools, we are proud to offer a world-class education that prepares students to achieve their goals and chase their dreams. This means that we are focusing on developing the whole child – intellectually, socially, emotionally, and physically. Which is precisely why I feel this topic is well worth the attention. Providing information for our students to make the best choices for today and their future is the right thing to do.

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David Stults developed popcorn lung after exposure to dangerous food chemicals. He is now informing students about the dangers of similar vaping substances.

Partnering with the Jenison Parent Resource Center to inform and educate, Dr. Brandon Graham welcomed speaker and vaping awareness advocate, David Stults. Dave spent the bulk of his day with us for student assemblies that occurred earlier today. There is also a free townhall event for parents this evening who are interested in more information. If you are unable to attend tonight’s event, please reach out to Ottawa Substance Abuse Prevention Coalition for possible upcoming dates.

This is where we need to start – knowledge is power. When you know better, you can do better! This information will be vital in revealing the truth about the results of our students’ choices – and help parents know how to join the conversation.

Student Assembly Today:

Nearly 1,600 students (grades 7, 8, 9 and 10) went to the Jenison Center for the Arts today to participate in a presentation about the unknown truth and major health risks of vaping. Every moment of interruption to their traditional school day is worth the information gained.

David Stults, who is retired from GE became passionate about warning people of vaping dangers after being diagnosed in 2009 with bronchiolitis obliterans, more commonly known as “popcorn lung.’’ This is an incurable and possibly life threatening disease. Dave had been exposed to a chemical that was activated into a vapor during the microwave heating process. This same chemical is now commonly used in vaping products today. Life for Dave might be different today had someone warned against inhaling – or warned that the popcorn contained any hazardous chemicals. He has since become recognized as an expert in the field of vaping and has spoken at dozens of schools and to more than 25,000 students in 2019. His goal is to fight back while informing this generation of students and their parents.

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Stults aims to portray the real-life picture of what the chemicals do. He may look like a healthy person standing before them but he lets students know that their choices could be setting themselves up for an incurable disease with 40% lung capacity sooner than they might think. 

During the presentation, Dave asked 1/3 of the students present to stand. This represents a nationwide average of the students who have vaped. He acknowledges that the students may think this is a fun and social thing to do, but quickly educates that they are voluntarily inhaling and possibly becoming addicted to a deadly cocktail. The chemicals in e-cigarettes plus the nicotine present makes addiction and lifelong bodily harm a very real possibility; and it can happen quicker than you think.

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2017 Ottawa County Youth Assessment Survey. We must change this perception! 

This 1/3 of students standing also contains the students who may be vaping on a regular basis and could already be addicted. Vaping pods have as much nicotine in one pod as 200 regular cigarettes. Which is a staggering number and almost impossible to keep track of. With a regular cigarette, it is lit, smoked and discarded. With the vaping pod, there is no way to know how much is actually being ingested. Every push of the button brings another hit, and when it can be done with minimal disguising effort such as inside the school bathroom or even the classroom – the frequency is likely to be much higher. 

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The numbers of students vaping looks different among the age groups in the assemblies today. The influence of this information among the younger kids will hopefully be strong enough to encourage them to never even try it. The older students may be faced with a different take away – now that you know better, what will you do? If you have students or grandchildren in 7-10th grade, I urge you to ask them what they learned today and open the dialog.

Free Town Hall Tonight:

Tonight, there is a free local town hall that is meant for parents, educators, youth pastors, community members – anyone who works with our youth. A one time presentation from experts like Dave Stults may make an impact on our students, but lasting change comes from continuing the conversation through support and reinforcement at home. As adults, we cannot afford to lack understanding regarding this trend or be flippant about these dangerous choices.

While Dave addressed our students today, he had this to share with parents: if you discover your child is vaping or addicted to vaping, it’s not time for discipline and disappointment, it’s time for connection and support. Help them navigate a life change within a positive environment. While these devices are fairly new, their reach is far and wide and hitting our young people harder than the temptation of the traditional cigarette. Also, far less research has been done on the full affects on the body and the challenge of quitting may be greater. More advice on quitting can be found here.

It really is scary to think of the health issues our students might have to deal with and the path this sort of possible addiction could lead them. I sincerely hope the result of these sessions is less use and a more informed community. Young adults who are able to make healthier choices while encouraging friends with positive influence. As well as a more aware and better informed parent community about the unintended health and addiction consequences that can result from vaping.

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HELPFUL INFORMATION ABOUT VAPING:

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Graphic Source: The Real Cost, US Department of Health and Human Services

 

Outdoor Science Adventures

One of the best things about Michigan is the experience we have with the change of each season. In addition to outdoor recess in just about any weather, our Transitional Kindergarten class studies science and sharpens other skills while engaging in outdoor project based learning.

Through a valuable partnership with Ottawa County, our Early Childhood teachers plan their classroom curriculum to link up with Ottawa County naturalists and trips to local parks.

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These off site nature learning experiences are ongoing throughout the school year. They provide fresh air and great physical activity, offer a shift in learning and teaches them how to explore individually as well as be part of a group. Students are learning to notice things, compare and think specifically about all their senses. Often the school year starts with timid students as they may be riding a bus for the first time and are given the freedom to explore and learn from the world around them.

136300071d3ce24f3b6df4ba1a5a0c28762e8b0aThe students’ curiosity and questioning skills shine through while they are discovering nature. Teachers are often able to better relate to students who struggle with traditional skills in the classroom. They may begin to count objects in the woods (ex: sticks or rocks), or use pre-reading skills while looking at maps of the different parks. They are enjoying themselves and grasping learning in an alternative environment. These trips also help deepen relationships between teachers and students providing helpful context for when they return to the classroom.  

Our hardworking Jenison teachers aren’t afraid to engage learning on different levels for all students. As a result of this unique science program, these little learners have swelled in confidence and independence. No matter the season or the weather, excitement about these trips continues to grow, always looking forward to their next outdoor learning adventure.

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Teachers, Blake Smolen and Megan Thomas enjoy an outdoor science exploration with their students and paraprofessionals, Kris Andres and Mary Dejonge.