During my 30-year tenure as an educator, I saw many obstacles arise for my students. Some hurdles, such as poverty, the death of a parent, or other circumstantial barriers, I could do little to remove. However, I have also seen young people being manipulated by society, peer pressure, and fancy, glossy advertisements into ruining their own health with chemical substances like drugs, alcohol, or tobacco.
Today, our country faces a new enemy amid a worldwide pandemic, social unrest, and economic uncertainty: vaping.
I am aware that statement may seem bold when looking up at the mountain of issues we face in today’s social climate. For that, I credit the marketing behind e-cigarettes painting them as harmless. But before jumping to the conclusion that vaping among our students is nothing to worry about, consider the recent study by Stanford University School of Medicine that links vaping to a significantly increased risk of developing COVID-19. The Journal of Adolescent Health published this study Aug. 11 with our nation’s students on the brink of returning to school.
“Among young people who were tested for the virus that causes COVID-19, the research found that those who vaped were five to seven times more likely to be infected than those who did not use e-cigarettes,” said a Stanford University press release.
This alone should give us pause but considering that 5 million middle and high school students currently use some form of e-cigarette, this is a recipe for disaster.
Right now, our nation’s schools have the opportunity to fight back against the big corporations that are putting these children at risk. Schools Against Vaping is a national campaign aimed at providing vaping research and education to America’s schools in addition to educating the public about the legal challenge to e-cigarette manufacturer, JUUL. If successful, this legal action would force the industry leader to help fund cessation programs and educational support for students in school districts that elect to participate in the class action lawsuit.
I challenge every school district in Mississippi to take a stand with me by joining Schools Against Vaping in this fight for the health and well-being of the students and families we serve. I extend this challenge to families. Talk to the young people in your lives about vaping and how it can harm their health and their futures.
Michael Marks of Hattiesburg is executive director of Schools Against Vaping. Learn more at schoolsagainstvaping.org.