PALM BEACH COUNTY, Fla. — The Palm Beach County School District says it has seized hundreds of e-cigarettes since the beginning of the school year, but kids are finding new ways to hide them.
Now, the Substance Awareness Coalition is using a new tactic by having teens teach their peers and parents about the dangers.
“I see it in my school and I know a lot of people see it in their schools,” said Liam Kennison, a junior at Suncoast Community High School. “There’s a running joke in my school that there’s a petition that says let’s remove toilets from the Juul rooms.”
Kennison is part of the Palm Beach County Substance Awareness Coalition’s teen leadership program that helps raise awareness about the dangers of e-cigarettes among teens, which started at the beginning of the school year.
“We train the teens to go out into the community and into the schools and they offer round table discussions and they are doing community presentations,” said Alexa Lee, Director of Programming for the coalition.
According to new numbers provided by the Florida Youth Substance Abuse Survey, e-cigarette use by teens in Palm Beach County has jumped up more than four percent in the last two years. The survey also says in the past 30 days, 15.3 percent of teens used an e-cigarette, which is more than the state percentage at 13.7 percent.
“We had a report of a fifth grader using an e-cigarette, and it was reported to us that he wasn’t able to stop,” Lee said.
The coalition says the best advice is to talk to your child, but Any Lab Test Now in Palm Springs says it’s seeing its own increase of parents testing teens for nicotine.
“We have parents bringing children that test them even multiple times a month,” said Alex Kasparek, owner of Any Lab Test Now. “Nicotine is a drug and obviously it’s going to effect your child’s brain development.”
Any Lab Test Now offers tests on blood, urine, and hair tested. It’s a deterrent for your child, but the coalition stresses education and awareness.
“If you’re a parent talk to your child, know what they’re doing. Try to understand how they’re feeling because they may be doing this and you don’t know,” said Kennison, who recently gave a presentation at Royal Palm Beach High School.
The coalition believes having students hear the information from their peers is working, but is reminding parents to be on guard because teens who use e-cigarettes are more likely to smoke cigarettes as adults.