Administration seeks to curb vaping through policy changes

October 17, 2019 — by Marisa Kingsley and Tiffany Wang

Upon entering bathrooms this year, students are noticing changes two major changes to discourage vaping: doors that are left propped open all day and new posters about the negative effects of vaping taped onto the walls and bathroom stall doors. 

“The posters are just a reminder to students about their choices,” assistant principal Kerry Mohnike said. “It doesn’t always dissuade students, but if they’re alone they’re more likely to think about it.” 

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), there have been more than 800 cases of people hospitalized or dying because of vaping so far this year. 

Nicotine-fortified liquids commonly used in vaping products are alcohol-based, while Tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) — a chemical derived from marijuana —  causes “lipoid pneumonia,” an illness in the lungs that is leading to many of the ailments. The use of THC oils is cited in many cases of severe lung illnesses, including 21 cases in San Francisco alone, according to press reports. 

As vaping becomes an escalating problem and more teens falling ill because of it nationally,  school officials here have also ramped up their campaign against it, including policy changes and increased awareness efforts. 

In the past, if students were caught vaping, they would likely receive a five-day suspension, Mohnike said. This year, however, when a student is caught the first time using a product containing THC, students can choose to attend a 10-week counseling program. The program, provided by Adolescent Counseling Services, seeks to help teens curb their addiction through individual, group and family therapy sessions. 

Additionally, the administration decided to keep the bathroom doors open during school hours to discourage vaping. Some schools have even started to put vaping detectors in bathrooms, but these products are expensive and the school has not yet purchased them.

Mohnike said the common perception that “everyone vapes” isn’t accurate. Still, the administration believes that the number of students at the school who vape — while far from a majority — is alarming. 

The school’s anti-vaping campaign centers around the appeal to students’ intellect instead of simply discouraging the use of vape products on campus. 

“It doesn’t do any good for the administrators to wag their fingers at students and say ‘don’t do that’,’’ Mohnike said. 

While many students agree that the school should increase anti-vaping education efforts, they don’t see the posters as an effective means of it. 

Junior Amy Munson, who has noticed the anti-vaping posters, said that while they’re “not a bad idea,” they are easy to ignore, especially if a student is already vaping. Instead, she believes that lessons in classes would be a better option. 

“Planned lessons designate time for people to hear about the negative sides of JUULing and make more people pay attention to it,” Munson said. “That doesn’t mean students will all pay attention, but it’s more effective than a poster.” 

Besides putting up posters, the school has more plans to further push the anti-vaping campaign, including the possibility of airing anti-vaping commercials on SHSTV, according to Mohnike.

The administration and PTSO are also planning on having the school’s resource officer, Deputy Russell Davis, give another presentation to parents. They hope to educate parents on recognizing vape products and navigate the peer pressure associated with it. 

But administrators realize the ultimate decision about whether to vape rests with each individual.

“Hopefully someone will read the posters and it will help,” Mohnike said. “We live in a society that has internet access, and we learn information quickly, so I think the history of JUULing will be pretty short-lived.”

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