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Kansas educators face quick rise in vaping at schools

May 15, 2019

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — Kansas educators are rushing to find ways to respond to a sharp increase in the number of students using electronic cigarettes in the state’s high schools.

The state Board of Education heard from educators on Tuesday that about a third of high school students tried vaping at least once in 2017 and one in 10 were current users of e-cigarettes, according to the 2017 Kansas Youth Risk Factors Survey.

They said the number of students vaping increased nationally by 80 percent between 2017 and 2018, The Kansas News Service reported.

“For me, it was pretty eye opening in terms of just the amount of vaping that had occurred in a short amount of time,” David Stubblefield, the executive director of school administration for the Blue Valley Unified School District, told the board. “It really exploded exponentially in the last two or three years.”

E-cigarettes often contain nicotine, which is addictive, and are flavored to appeal to younger smokers.

Teachers have a hard time responding to vaping because the devices can look like pens, USB drives or car key fobs and produce little smoke. Some are even built into hoodie strings.

“Unless you physically see a student holding it, using it, blowing the smoke from it, it is really difficult to know when kids are actually using it in a school,” said Andover principal Kristen Kuhlmann.

Jordan Roberts, youth prevention manager for the Kansas Department of Health and Environment, said the agency recommends that schools prohibit all forms of tobacco and tobacco-related products, including e-cigarettes. The policy would apply to everyone, including students, employees and visitors, and should be in effect at all times, The Topeka Capital-Journal reported.

Education officials are bracing for a long anti-vaping campaign, much like the decadeslong effort to reduce traditional cigarette use.

“They’ve just burst upon the market,” said Mark Thompson, a consultant on health for the Kansas State Department of Education. “We’re really playing catch up here.”

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