While almost everyone knows about the dangers of smoking, there is less information out there about the dangers of vaping.
As of Oct. 3, The Center for Disease Control said 1,080 cases, including 18 deaths, related to a vaping-related lung disease have reported, up from the 805 cases reported a week earlier.
Most patients had a history of vaping products containing THC, the psychoactive ingredient in marijuana.
It also said that most patients are young and male, with 80% of patients under 35 and more than one-third under 21.
What is Dodge County doing to combat this growing trend?
K-M Superintendent Mark Matuska said the commissioner of education, Mary Cathryn Ricker, held a statewide call with all superintendents on Friday, Oct. 4.
“Some of the data that she provided was that in the 2019 Minnesota student survey one in four Minnesota 11th graders reported using an e-cigarette in the past 30 days which is a 54% increase from their 2016 survey,” he said. “I think we all realize that the popularity of e-cigarettes has grown significantly not just with students, but with adults over that same time frame. That’s alarming to a lot of us who are in education.”
Another alarming aspect of vaping’s growing popularity is its negative health consequences.
“They’re starting to find that there are some direct relationships with healthy lungs and that’s probably what worries me the most,” said Matuska. “I see statistics on a daily basis increasing across the nation of the number of children and adults who are dying due to some of the chemicals and some of the interactions that are taking place and some of this vaping and that’s concerning for me,” he said.
What’s also concerning to Matuska is that some youth or young adults may not know where their vapes are coming from.
“I also know that there is a huge influx of vaping chemicals that kids are using that may not be coming from sources that they truly believe they’re coming from. The counterfeit market right now is making millions and millions, if not billions of dollars on counterfeit vapes that are probably getting into the different markets where kids are buying those,” he said. “Those types of things scare me, and I know they scare parents and I know they scare community members. Unfortunately, they aren’t scaring the kids too much yet, but I sure hope that parents are having those conversations with their kids and I know where doing some things with the kids here in the [school] district as well.”
Matuska said each Kasson-Mantorville school is doing something about chemical abuse.
He mentioned that Karen Besch has a chemical awareness unit in third grade at the K-M Elementary School. “This is where we introduce the topic of harmful chemicals and teach positive coping skills for stress and worry. Students are also taught about alcohol and tobacco use and the harmful effects on students’ bodies,” he said.
K-M High School and Middle School, he said, use a variety of influential strategies to ensure their students are safe in and out of the classroom.
Matuska noted that those strategies include building positive and meaningful relationships with students, educating students using the DARE program provided by School Resource Office Jesse Kasel, and educating staff and parents about vaping devices and the technologies that are prevalent in the e-cigarette market.
A task force is being initiated at the high school with Matuska leading it. Other members are two counselors, a school nurse, the school resource office, SADD advisors. He said they’re also inviting public health and a parent representative or two.
He said the purpose of this “task force” is, “to start/continue the conversation about how a community can best educate and prevent,” he said.
Meanwhile, he mentioned that special education focuses on teaching and reiterating the importance of positive coping skills. It will be done through social skills curriculum, daily news/current events and teen conversation of real-life events.