Teen vaping a concern for Nevada County administrators | TheUnion.com

Teen vaping a concern for Nevada County administrators

Sam Corey
Staff Writer
A man is pictured here vaping. Nevada County officials are concerned teen vaping has become an "epidemic." For more on concerns over vaping, see today's Money Monday section, page B1.
Photo by Nery Zarate on Unsplash

At a Nevada Joint Union High School District meeting last year, an administrator who studied science warned about possible ailments linked to vaping.

That was a story told by the district’s superintendent, Brett McFadden. This year those problems have begun to manifest, and he — like other administrators and county officials — are now highly concerned with vaping.

Part of their worry is tied to recent trends reaching national and state levels. Early August saw the beginning of hundreds of respiratory illnesses reportedly linked to vaping, according to Vox. After using an e-cigarette, one individual in Illinois died, according to the Washington Post. More recently, more deaths linked to vaping have been reported.

During and after the health scares, Michigan banned flavored e-cigarettes, along with New York. San Francisco, too, has banned these products.

On Sept. 16, Gov. Gavin Newsom said he planned to launch a public awareness campaign about the dangers of vaping, and instructed lawmakers to find a way to ban illegal and counterfeit vaping devices.

A recent Australian study found e-cigarettes kill airway cells and “that e-cigarettes should not be considered harmless to non-smokers.”

While recent data locally about teen vaping is somewhat nebulous, Nevada County Public Health Officer Dr. Ken Cutler is concerned.

“In the 2018 (California Health Kids Survey), 15% of Nevada County 11th graders reported e-cigarette use in the past 30 days, versus 8% reporting traditional cigarette use in that time frame,” he said in an email.

Cutler said the California Department of Public Health is investigating reports of severe lung injuries related to vaping, but until the science is formally determined, “people should strongly consider not vaping” because there is “evolving evidence of the health risks of e-cigarette use particularly among teens and real concerns about the vaping of other products.”

Rural areas like Nevada County are particularly prone to teen cigarette use, he said.


Friendship Club Executive Director Jennifer Singer, like many other county officials, is worried about teen vaping.

“It’s an epidemic,” she said, “All the schools are having information nights about it.”

“I absolutely think we are in the midst of a vaping epidemic in Nevada County,” said Marlene Mahurin, tobacco use prevention education project coordinator at the Office of the Nevada County Superintendent of Schools.

Both Singer and Mahurin said vaping education for parents and students is important, especially because, as Singer said, “There’s a bit of a disconnect thinking that e-cigarettes are safer” than cigarettes.

Mahurin said she fields calls from school principals wanting to start support groups to help students quit vaping — Silver Springs and Nevada Union high schools are just two examples.

Mahurin echoed one of Cutler’s concerns.

“So many students have started vaping who would have never smoked cigarettes,” she said.


McFadden said he doesn’t have statistics on vaping rates in his school district, but he said this problem has become so significant he thinks about it nightly.

He’s concerned about the immediate health and safety of students in addition to a breakdown of the norms and protocols at Nevada Union, as student vaping could decrease respect for school.

“To make matters worse, it’s very, very hard to detect,” he said, which is not the case with cigarettes.

The majority of students caught vaping are ingesting a marijuana-related substance, said McFadden.

To prevent vaping, Mahurin suggests parents talk with their teen children about it. They should start by asking their child what they know about the topic before launching into their own personal fears. Most importantly, ensure children know what they are ingesting, she said.

As part of this process, parents need to educate themselves.

“If parents don’t understand,” she said, “they can’t talk to their kids about it.”

Contact Staff Writer Sam Corey at scorey@theunion.com or call 530-477-4219.

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