Educators worry students don’t know vaping health risks
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Educators worry students don’t know vaping health risks

JUDY WOODRUFF: Cigarette smoking among youth
is at historic lows, but the number of kids using electronic cigarettes has increased. The government estimates the number is two
million. Although e-cigarettes deliver nicotine, many
teens mistakenly believe there are no serious health risks. And since newer devices look like computer
thumb drives, it’s harder for educators to detect them. That’s led to worries about e-cigarettes in
schools, including the most popular one, Juul. Special correspondent Kavitha Cardoza, with
our partner Education Week, visited a school in Milford, Connecticut, where the principal
is trying to change the behavior. It’s part of our weekly series Making the
Grade. KAVITHA CARDOZA: Fran Thompson, the principal
of Jonathan Law High School, opens what he calls his vaping drawer. FRAN THOMPSON, Principal, Jonathan Law High
School: These are some of the items that we have confiscated this week. KAVITHA CARDOZA: The items are all e-cigarettes. The most popular brand by far is called Juul. FRANCIS THOMPSON: This is a Juul. I know it looks like a flash drive, right? So, the liquid goes in here. KAVITHA CARDOZA: Basically, they’re devices
that heat up a liquid, often nicotine, and you inhale the vapor. FRANCIS THOMPSON: And then they smoke it,
they vape it. KAVITHA CARDOZA: Kids can hide them anywhere. ZANE BERKS, Student: Their socks, their backpacks,
their pockets, their wallets, their bras, back pockets, everywhere. EMMA HUDD, Student: Anywhere, yes, because
they’re so small. KAVITHA CARDOZA: Students Zane Berks and Emma
Hudd say that’s part of a Juul’s popularity. EMMA HUDD: It’s a lot easier than smoking
a cigarette or drinking. People do it in class all the time. And kids like that it’s sneaky and that they’re
getting away with it, because it gives you that, like, rebellion. FRANCIS THOMPSON: Are you really writing about
Christopher Columbus? I have athletes doing it. I have honors kids doing it. There’s absolutely no stereotype in terms
of the spectrum of who would be doing this. KAVITHA CARDOZA: That makes this school in
Milford, Connecticut, typical. Juuling, as it’s called, has spiked all over
the country among youth. But, unlike alcohol or cigarettes, often,
parents aren’t even sure what it is. Parent Liz Goodwin has two teenagers in this
school. She found nicotine liquid pods in their pockets
while she was doing laundry. LIZ GOODWIN, Mother: When I found the pods,
I Googled it and looked for it, and I couldn’t find anything. I just had a photo of it and tried to describe
it, and what is this? And then I saw the amount of nicotine. It’s the equivalent of one pack of cigarettes. I also understood some of my adult friends
used e-cigarettes as a way to get off of smoking, so I didn’t know how dangerous it was. FRANCIS THOMPSON: I will show you what was
going on. KAVITHA CARDOZA: Principal Thompson says his
aha moment was in the bathroom. FRANCIS THOMPSON: So, your typical high school
bathroom, right? KAVITHA CARDOZA: Brings back memories. FRANCIS THOMPSON: Just like watching “Grease,”
right?” But what was happening was you might have
five or six kids hanging out in here with the door closed and vaping. KAVITHA CARDOZA: Teachers said groups of students
were gone for more than 20, 25 minutes at a time. FRANCIS THOMPSON: I had boys wrestling in
the bathrooms. I had girls setting up little tent cities
in the bathrooms, so they could hang out and then come back totally lost because they missed
that instructional time, and really unfocused because they were buzzed from the vaping. KAVITHA CARDOZA: It was hard to know for certain,
though, because there are no obvious signs. There’s very little smoke and no characteristic
cigarette smell. JONAY GUZMAN, Teacher: You really can’t tell. Like, how do I know it’s not a Bath and Body
Works perfume that they pray that smells like mango? KAVITHA CARDOZA: Suchitra Krishnan-Sarin Runs
the Yale Tobacco Centers of Regulatory Science at Yale University. She says the flavors are a big part of e-cigarettes’
popularity. They sound playful and harmless, mango, mint,
cotton candy, blueberry pie. SUCHITRA KRISHNAN-SARIN, Yale University:
These products come in over 7,000 different flavors. And they can also mix and match to create
their own, which, again, introduces a sense of novelty. KAVITHA CARDOZA: But the vapors inhaled has
been found to contain lead, zinc, chromium and nickel. And Krishnan-Sarin says nicotine, the main
liquid in these devices, is extremely addictive and can cause memory and attention loss, especially
in the developing teenage brain. SUCHITRA KRISHNAN-SARIN: There’s something
about nicotine that the teen brain is not only sensitive, more sensitive to it, but
it also leads to greater use of other substances, like cocaine, marijuana. KAVITHA CARDOZA: Juuls were created as a way
to help adult smokers stop smoking. Krishnan-Sarin says there is not a lot of
research available, but e-cigarettes do contain fewer toxic chemicals than a regular cigarette. But she says that doesn’t mean they are safe
for kids. In fact, a big misconception is most kids
think they’re inhaling water vapor. SUCHITRA KRISHNAN-SARIN: No, no, definitely
not. It is not water vapor. And I think that is a message that needs to
be delivered very clearly to youth. There are chemicals in these e-liquids. You are vaporizing the chemicals and you are
inhaling them. KAVITHA CARDOZA: Principal Thompson felt he
couldn’t punish students for vaping because they didn’t understand why it was wrong. So he started educating them. JANELLE JESSEE, St. Vincent’s Medical Center:
These are all the chemicals that can be found in one single cigarette. KAVITHA CARDOZA: Janelle Jessee With St. Vincent’s
Medical Center has spoken to more than 16,000 students from all over Connecticut this year. JANELLE JESSEE: I ask the question, raise
your hand if you know someone your own age that smokes cigarettes. Very rare do I get more than five. And then I ask the same question, do you know
someone your own age that uses a Juul or a vape? Almost every single hand goes up from a fifth-grade
classroom all the way up to a 12th grade classroom. KAVITHA CARDOZA: Students Morgan Macey and
Anthony Mendez say images on social media spread quickly. MORGAN MACEY, Student: You see the younger
celebrities are holding a Juul in their hand, and everyone’s Snapchat will post videos of
them Juuling. They just find it a way to be cool. ANTHONY MENDEZ, Student: There’s a lot of
tricks. There’s like smoke bubbles, kind of like a
ring around, and then a bigger ring. There’s different tricks that they do online. KAVITHA CARDOZA: So, Jessee gives them information
and answers questions. She even has a session for their teachers. WOMAN: So, where do you put the fluid? Why do you need power? I know nothing about this. MARY MANNION, Teacher: I think not having
these Juuls and this industry regulated by federal and also state officials is outrageous. SCOTT GOTTLIEB, FDA Commissioner: Yes, I will
tell you, straight up, this is one of our top concerns right now. KAVITHA CARDOZA: Scott Gottlieb is the commissioner
of the U.S. Food and Drug Administration. He says while e-cigarettes can be used by
adults to stop smoking, it can’t be done at the expense of children. SCOTT GOTTLIEB: If all we do is end up hooking
a whole generation of young people on nicotine by making these products available, we won’t
have done a service from a public health standpoint. And so we need to be very aggressive in trying
to take steps to crack down, prevent the youth use of these products. KAVITHA CARDOZA: The FDA is being sued by
several organizations that are challenging Gottlieb’s decision to allow e-cigarettes
to remain on the market until 2022 without regulatory review. Gottlieb says they needed time to set comprehensive
standards for all these products, not just Juul. SCOTT GOTTLIEB: We also can’t be in a position
where we’re playing Whac-A-Mole, where we’re just going after one particular product and
don’t have in place rules that address the overall category. KAVITHA CARDOZA: The FDA has requested internal
research from e-cigarette companies, including why these products are so popular with kids. They are conducting a national undercover
blitz to stop stores from selling to youth. And, this fall, the FDA will roll out their
first ever comprehensive public health campaign about e-cigarettes. NARRATOR: Vaping can deliver nicotine to your
brain, reprogramming you to crave more and more. KAVITHA CARDOZA: In a statement, Juul says
they cannot be more emphatic, no young person or non-nicotine user should ever try Juul. The company has pledged $30 million for their
own education and prevention efforts. Despite how proactive this school is about
educating students against e-cigarette use, students say Juuls are still extremely common. None of these four students say they have
vaped, but they don’t hesitate. If I asked you to get me a Juul right now,
how long do you think it would it take you? ZANE BERKS: Three minutes. MORGAN MACEY: Five minutes or less. EMMA HUDD: Five minutes or less, yes. ANTHONY MENDEZ: Don’t even know how to get
one. (LAUGHTER) KAVITHA CARDOZA: Principal Thompson knows
this. FRANCIS THOMPSON: It’s always going to be
catch-up. It’s always going to be reactionary. So, you do the best you can, I think. KAVITHA CARDOZA: But he says its critical
to keep educating kids about the risks. FRANCIS THOMPSON: I consider vaping to be
the next health epidemic for teenagers. And I believe, in my heart, that this is going
to have long-term effects, not dissimilar to smoking and cancer. KAVITHA CARDOZA: For the “PBS NewsHour” and
Education Week, I’m Kavitha Cardoza in Milford, Connecticut. JUDY WOODRUFF: And one additional note: In
June, voters in San Francisco overwhelmingly backed a measure to ban the sale of flavored
tobacco products, including vaping liquids. It’s considered the strictest in the nation.

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