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Vaping numbers in Palm Beach County schools more than double previous year, pointing to ‘epidemic’

Posted at 5:12 AM, Nov 20, 2019

PALM BEACH COUNTY, Fla. — “People don’t even realize how many kids do actually vape,” said Joey Marano, a student at Boca Raton High school, who co-founded an anti-vaping club at the school with Paige Martin.

“We just knew that it’s going around and we just knew how bad it is for people and we want it to stop,” Paige said.

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Contact 5 asked for the number of smoking incidents over the past three school years.

In 2017-18 there were around 1,400 cases. In 2018-19 around 1,500.

In the current school year, there are already around 1,200 cases, and that’s just 79 days into the school year.

If the numbers continue, this school year will have more smoking incidents than the two previous years combined.

"It’s an epidemic on our campuses as well as campuses across the country,” said Palm Beach County School District Assistant Superintendent June Eassa.

The school district only started to isolate vaping incidents this year, and it’s making up 84 percent of all smoking.

“Look at where kids were 20 years ago with smoking,” said Brian Dawson, Department of Safe Schools Tobacco Prevention Training with the school district. “Smoking has dropped from 30 percent to under 6 percent in 2018. E-cigarettes on the other hand, vaping, has risen astronomically. To the point where now almost 30 percent of the kids nationwide are now vaping.”

Vapes come in all sorts of different flavors and many fear that is what is making it more attractive to kids.

“Kids thought that it was cooler than cigarettes, I guess, because you know it has all the flavors, and it doesn’t smell. It’s a lot easier to use,” Marano said.

The Centers for Disease Control warns that the dangers behind vaping are real. This year 42 deaths have been confirmed across the country, according to the CDC.

The State Attorney’s office has partnered with the school district to tackle the vaping epidemic.

“The reason why the partnership started with the school district is because these principals and these teachers were seeing these devices and these substances on their campuses on a daily basis,” said Cheo Reid, chief of the juvenile division with the state attorney’s office.

Kids using tobacco products are getting younger and younger.

“We do have middle school students, and we’ve had vaping on some of our elementary campuses as well,” Eassa said.

In elementary schools, vaping makes up 100 percent of all smoking incidents, and experts say it doesn’t stop there.

“We actually invite kindergarten teachers to start introducing the problems to the kids,” Dawson said.

Experts say parents are part of the problem.

“Very often the parents will come in and ask for vapes back,” Eassa said. “Because they purchased them for the students.”

Eassa said it will take work from parents, experts, teachers and kids to combat the vaping epidemic.

“It’s a much easier for the students to never start vaping than for them to quit vaping,” Eassa said.

The district has produced several resources to help parents, including this video.