‘It Has Stretched Down to Elementary School’: Police Address ‘Vaping’ Concerns with Board of Ed

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New Canaan kids as young as those in elementary school are exposed to and experimenting with e-cigarettes, inhaling the aerosols produced by vaporizers in an increasingly prevalent practice known as “vaping,” officials said Monday night.

Though long-term health effects aren’t yet known, vaping increases heart rates and blood pressure and is “kind of terrifying” in its use among kids, New Canaan Police Officer Jeff Deak told members of the Board of Education at their regular meeting.

“Quite honestly, the kids think it’s a safe alternative” to cigarettes, Deak, the school resource officer at Saxe Middle School, said at the meeting, held in the Wagner Room at New Canaan High School.

“It has stretched down to elementary school,” Deak said.

He added: “Some of the kids just think it’s fun—it’s fun to blow white smoke in the air. But there are serious health concerns with that. And the big concern is, when you introduce alcohol or drugs into a developing brain, the likelihood for addiction skyrockets. And that is the danger.”

Deak was responding to a question posed by school board member Sheri West following a report from the district’s Crisis Advisory Board, a collection of district administrators and central office staff as well as town and emergency services personnel. He was joined at the podium by South School Principal Joanne Rocco, NCHS School Resource Officer Geoff Lambert, Saxe Assistant Principal Steven Bedard and Lead Campus Monitor Dave Wannagot. The presenters reviewed the Crisis Advisory Board’s goals, training, responsibilities and work within the schools, including student education and drills.

Though vaping is not federally regulated, Connecticut two years ago passed a law regulating the use of e-cigarettes in public places including school campuses and buildings. Most e-cigarettes have a battery, heating element and place to hold a liquid. The devices produce an aerosol by heating a liquid that usually contains nicotine that is then inhaled into the lungs.

According to the federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, e-cigarettes are now “the most commonly used tobacco product among youth.” Last year, more than 2 million U.S. middle and high school students used e-cigarettes in a given month.

Nicotine is highly addictive and can harm adolescent brain development, according to the CDC.

Deak said that “the tobacco companies are doing a wonderful job of marketing these bright-colored, flavored, scented things that these kids can smoke.”

He called for increased education among parents as well as students. Deak also said he planned to start educating kids at Saxe about the dangers of vaping in workshop classrooms.

“We have quite a few vapes to show people, to demonstrate to parents and administrators and kids that they’re dangerous and they’re not toys. I don’t know if that helps but we want to put this information out there. We want to educate the kids and I don’t think it’s a one-time shot. I think just like anything else, if you keep reinforcing just how dangerous it is, it will sink in to a group of kids and it won’t become a bigger problem than it is now.”

In other business during the meeting, Town Clerk Claudia Weber swore in Board of Ed members who had been re-elected to their posts earlier this month: Sheri West, Penny Rashin, Katrina Parkhill, Dionna Carlson and Jennifer Richardson. After some discussion, Carlson was re-elected chairman of the board, Rashin was elected vice chairman and Richardson was re-elected secretary. Those votes were unanimous.

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