Frisco ISD ramps up education efforts on vaping dangers

Frisco ISD will introduce new curriculum to teach students the dangers of vaping and e-cigarettes.

District leaders and Frisco police met with parents Wednesday to discuss the issue.

“This is a problem, and it’s a significant problem,” said Melinda Samberson, Frisco ISD Council of PTAs.

Samberson is also a mother to three boys in Frisco ISD and said vaping among younger students may be more common than parents think.

“In past years, he’s said they’ve taken that Juul and they’re doing it in the classroom because it’s so small, and they can get by with being sneaky,” Samberson said.

Frisco ISD has been working on how to get ahead of the growing problem since last year, when principals at some schools were reaching out for help. When they talked to students, they found some might already be addicted to nicotine from vaping.

“Kids said, ‘We need information on how to quit.’ Because, of course, our whole focus is on prevention, don’t ever start. And we had students out there who said no, we need to know how to quit, and that was surprising,” said Erin Miller, Chief Student Services Officer, Frisco ISD.

The district is trying to educate parents and students on the health and legal consequences as well as new laws raising the legal age to buy tobacco products from 18 to 21.

Frisco ISD is also introducing lesson plans from the Catch My Breath program aimed at prevention but also educating students on the unknown risks of vaping.

“None of these products have really been proven as safer than cigarettes,” said Patricia Stepaniuk, Catch My Breath program coordinator. “The ingredients are deceptive, so you list things like nicotine, propylene glycol, benzoic acid, flavoring.”

The program was developed in 2016 by researchers at the University of Texas at Austin who recognized the rapidly growing popularity of vaping.

“Saw a 900 percent spike in youth e-cigarette use between 2011 and 2015,” Stepaniuk said.

According to the program, about 3 million high schoolers and 600,000 middle schoolers on average will have tried vaping in the past month. Everyone involved is hoping to stop a growing epidemic.

“It’s to educate these kids, ‘Hey this could be damaging your lungs, you don’t know what this is doing,’” Samberson said.

“There are a lot of myths out there,” said Frisco ISD Chief Student Services Officer Erin Miller. “We have students who would say, ‘I’m using this and there’s nothing in the liquid. There’s no nicotine in it.’ We need to help them to understand what you’re doing is dangerous.”

The curriculum will start being taught in Frisco classrooms next month.

Frisco schools can also now give in-school suspension to students who have an e-cigarette at school or require them to go through an additional educational program on vaping.

Frisco police say they’ve had almost 50 referrals already this school year for students vaping. It is a misdemeanor for anyone under the age of 21 to be in possession of a tobacco product.

Program coordinators at Catch My Breath say they’re now in 1,100 schools nationwide, which is a huge spike from just 184 schools their first year.

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