Take It From Teachers: Tobacco Is Still a Problem

Take It From Teachers: Tobacco Is Still a ProblemIn a world where e-cigarettes look like flash drives and smoking is still allowed in cars with children present, more and more kids are encountering the dangers of tobacco products. Recently, Tobacco Stops With Me spoke with two Oklahoma teachers about the daily issues they see surrounding vaping and smoking. Their shocking experiences — even in elementary schools — will have you shaking your head in disbelief.

Elementary school vaping epidemic

The Elementary School Vaping Epidemic

“Kids bring vapes to school all the time. Because parents don’t realize their true dangers, they don’t know to lock them up like they would cigarettes or alcohol. All the kid sees is a brightly colored toy that adults put in their mouth.”

— Heather, Special Education

We have all heard the lies vape companies tout year after year to make a sale: “A cessation tool.” An “anxiety relaxer” that’s “safer than cigarettes.” The list goes on and on. However, as new information surfaces about the health effects and long-term repercussions of e-cigarettes, companies are evolving their product designs to ensure they look harmless, and even fun.

Nicotine in vapes vs cigarrets

The sleek designs fool both teachers and kids. One teacher stated that the designs make the rules harder to enforce. “Is that a vape, or is that a marker? It is genuinely hard to tell.”

Here’s the truth about e-cigarettes:

  • One vape contains more nicotine than an entire pack of cigarettes.
  • The high nicotine levels in flavored products are tied to nicotine dependence.
  • Due to loopholes in legislation, many teens who are 18 and older can still purchase flavored and vapor products, which harm their developing brains.

Paula Lau, a student assistance coordinator, shed light on this topic in 2020: “I honestly think vapes are more pervasive than cigarettes ever were. I see it across all demographics. From higher income to lower income and athletes to academic types, a lot of kids are vaping.”

children's coloring book with a inhaler sitting on top

Children Continue To Suffer From Secondhand Smoke

Part of the problem is that young kids are easily influenced — they want to look like their mom or dad.

“You can always tell which kids’ parents smoke. You can smell it on their clothes and backpacks, it pours out of cars at drop-off and sometimes you can even tell which kid is coming down the hall because of the smell of cigarette smoke.”

— Amy, First Grade

As vapes continue to invade schools and backpacks, the problem of secondhand smoke is still prevalent in households across Oklahoma. It’s still legal to smoke in cars with children present as well, leading to a lifetime of complications such as:

  • Lung infections
  • Bronchitis
  • Asthma attacks
  • Ear infections

On top of health complications, kids who are regularly exposed to secondhand smoke are more likely to become smokers themselves. First grade teacher Amy shed some light on this topic: “What really makes me angry is seeing the kids who have to bring breathing treatments to school or take sick days due to illnesses from secondhand smoke.” Another teacher said, “It breaks my heart — kids aren’t choosing to live this way.”

We can strive to create change in our community by sharing our collective experiences and seeking collaborative solutions. Learn more about policies that can drive solutions at our Get Involved page — or get tips on how to talk with kids of all ages about saying no to tobacco.

Published by Tobacco Stops With Me on June 16, 2023