I’m going to say right up front that I am no where near qualified to tackle this issue. I am only bringing it up because I believe that individuals more qualified than I should consider the issue long before it becomes a sweeping, unstoppable trend throughout US public schools.
Many anti-tobacco public school educational programs are now automatically including electronic cigarettes and vaping in their programming. They are claiming to educate teens about the dangers of these products, but there doesn’t seem to be any level of understanding on the part of the educators. Generally this educational excursion comes with statements that e-cigs and vapor products are dangerous, deadly, addictive, and should never be used — just like tobacco cigarettes.
There’s an example right here where Ventura County in California’s Teens Kick Ash program now includes extensive counter-vaping components. I have a few questions for programs like these…
- Who approved the information in the new programming?
- What proof are they using to show that vaping products are, in fact, extremely harmful, addictive, and deadly — because a lot research actually suggests otherwise.
- Why are anti-tobacco programs being written to include something that has not yet been qualified as a tobacco product?
- Given that most of these groups are tax-funded, non-profit, and given open access to our country’s youth, are they really allowed to make up whatever they want for programming without any clearance or oversight?
There’s certainly a number of issues with this new trend. At best, it is a misguided and misleading attempt to protect teens from smoking. At worst, it as a slanderous and libelous campaign that uses tax dollars to do real damage to the electronic cigarette and vaping industry which mostly isn’t in any way connected to the tobacco industry. Even called an e-cig a tobacco product is dubious at best.
I don’t imagine anyone actually wants to get in on this fight — least of all companies trying to argue that they aren’t going after teens… but the stigmatization of vaping within our school system is likely to have far reaching consequences — the first of which being that given the choice, many that might vape instead of smoking might choose smoking (which we know to be far more harmful) instead. Those teens that did smoke and now vape might go back to smoking. Parents and teachers that witness these programs and the people they talk to are more likely to stigmatize vaping in otherwise legal settings — again, possibly keeping people smoking rather than using a safer alternative.
Ultimately, I just assume that there has to be a check against programs like these being able to do whatever they want. What if tomorrow they decided that telling teens to start having sex was a statistically proven way to keep them from smoking? It might be an extreme example, but who’s to determine if that’s a reasonable expenditure of the money and time that goes to our schools.
If they spend all this time and energy fighting vaping, one could even argue that they aren’t sufficiently fighting against tobacco — which is what they’re paid to do.
I will be asking around about this on my own.