(WNCT)- In one week, many students across the state will return to school, and parents and health officials are focused on safety.
This includes making sure students understand the dangers and effects of e-cigarettes.
All public schools in North Carolina are required to have a sign-up, showing they are a tobacco-free school, but, this year —- the vaping or e-cigarette symbol has been added to the signs.
Dr. John Silvernail says when it comes to vaping or e-cigarettes, parents need to be on the lookout.
Silvernail said, “Vaping is not safe, in any capacity, it is as dangerous as tobacco, and maybe in some cases, even more, dangerous than tobacco.”
Silvernail is the Pitt County Public Health Director.
He says vapes are largely unregulated and a lot of times we don’t know what’s in them.
Sometimes — they can contain illegal drugs.
Around the country, the CDC is looking into what they call 94 possible cases of severe lung illness associated with vaping — in 14 states — during the past 3 months.
Doctor Silvernail says 3 of those cases were reported in North Carolina.
Tiffany Thigpen is the health department’s tobacco prevention coordinator, she said, “They view it as something they think is safe and it’s not.”
She says the state received money this year to add the vaping symbol to the tobacco-free school signs displayed at all NC public schools.
The signs will be up by the time student’s start back to class.
Thigpen said, “Having that reminder up there that e-cigarettes are included in the policy is just something to let students and parents know it’s not allowed.”
In a statement to 9 On Your Side, Pitt County Schools says:
“Pitt County Schools is aware of the increase in tobacco use and vaping across the nation, especially by our younger population. As a result, we partner with groups such as Students Against Destructive Decisions to increase awareness among our students and staff. We comply with state and federal law and operate as a tobacco-free system, and this includes prohibiting the use of e-cigarettes and other similar products. As our policies state (See policies 4320 and 5026), we believe, “the use of tobacco products on school grounds, in school buildings and facilities in or on any other school property owned or operated by the school board…is detrimental to the health and safety of students, staff, and school visitors.” This summer, we are also working with our Region 10 Tobacco Prevention Coordinator to update our Tobacco-Free School signage throughout the system to include images of electronic cigarettes. It’s important that we come together as a community to raise awareness of the short-term and long term health effects of tobacco use.”Pitt County Schools
Each school will have several of these new signs on display.
Dr. Silvernail said, “We don’t know the long term impacts these e-cigarettes will have, some of these products contain a compound associated with pulmonary fibrosis which is a long term, not reversible, damage of the lungs.”
Silvernail says talk to your kids about vapes, many can look like flash-drives.
This year, North Carolina became the first state to sue e-cigarette maker Juul.
Stein said, “Within the last year, the use of e-cigs has gone up among high school students 70 percent and 40 percent among middle school students.“
In a statement, Juul responded, saying:
“We share the Attorney General’s concerns about youth vaping, which is why we have been cooperating with his office and why we have taken the most aggressive actions of anyone in the industry to combat youth usage. We strongly advocate for T21 legislation, we stopped the sale of non-tobacco and non-menthol based flavored JUULpods to our traditional retail store partners, enhanced our online age-verification process, strengthened our retailer compliance program with over 2,000 secret shopper visits per month, and shut down our Facebook and Instagram accounts while working constantly to remove inappropriate social media content generated by others on those platforms. Finally, we continue to develop technologies to further restrict underage access.”Juul