×

Students discuss vaping during roundtable session

NASHUA — With vaping continuing to cause problems for young people across America, students at Nashua High School South – where nearly half of pupils admit to at least trying the liquid nicotine products – spoke on the subject during a Monday roundtable discussion.

“When I talk to people, there’s a common assumption that vaping is harmless and it’s just water vapor, but obviously we know that’s not the case,” senior Jeffery Lam said.

“I think it’s very important to have education both for parents and students on vaping and the effects of vaping,” Lam added.

U.S. Sen. Jeanne Shaheen, D-N.H., visited the school for the Monday discussion, as did Nashua Mayor Jim Donchess. South Principal Keith Richard joined the discussion.

Shaheen told the students that when she was in high school, it was cool to smoke. Eventually, officials they slowly learned more about the impacts and deaths associated with smoking.

“Suddenly that became not cool and something we didn’t do,” Shaheen said.

Richard said when this issue came to officials’ attention about two years ago, many administrators did not even know what vaping was.

“It took us by surprise,” Richard said, adding that they thought the devices were USB chargers.

Given the recent information from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention that the number of vaping-related illnesses jumped to at least 450 cases, as well as six deaths from vaping-related respiratory illness, local, state and federal officials are taking action. President Donald Trump announced plans last week of removing all e-cigarette flavors except plain tobacco from the market.

Shaheen, meanwhile, recently introduced the E-cigarette Youth Protection Act, which would charge fees in electronic cigarette companies the same way regular tobacco companies are charged. These fees would then be used to educate people about the harms of electronic cigarettes and vaping.

Shaheen said they are also looking at legislation in Congress that would increase taxes on the vaping devices and products themselves.

“One of the things I learned when I was younger was the direct correlation between the amount of taxes on a pack of cigarettes and the percentage of young people who smoked,” Shaheen told students.

“As high school students, your brains are still developing. What vaping does is send a huge dose of nicotine to young people’s brains in a way that has some real impact,” she added.

Locally, just a few months ago in Nashua there were attempts to raise the age of purchasing and possessing nicotine products from 18 to 21. The Nashua ordinance, which was voted down 7-6, would have prohibited anyone under age 21 from using, purchasing, selling or possessing cigarettes, cigars, Skoal, chewing tobacco, or any type of vaping product.

Donchess said one of the reasons among those who were not in favor of raising the age was that they hoped this would be handled at the state level.

Students were asked by Richard if they ever see students smoking cigarettes. Many of them shook their heads to mean no. However, when asked by Shaheen if they had ever tried vaping, nearly all the students on the panel raised their hands.

“I think we’re not prepared. Nobody has explained to young people what the impact of vaping will be,” Shaheen said. “Slowly, as we get more information about it, there will be more concern about what the impacts are.”

Still, with recent news on illnesses related to vaping, some students have expressed concern.

“Being a student here and an athlete here, a lot of my athlete peers and student peers are surrounded by it, but I’ve also noticed that it’s been a concern to students and athletes here as they’ve seen the health cases it’s taken on recently around the country, and so I personally see it going downhill,” Nashua High School South senior field hockey player Jenna Chiavelli said.

She said they are beginning to realize the toll it can take on high school students’ bodies.

“It’s something we really need to educate a lot of people about and I know that’s what Breathe New Hampshire and the Nashua Prevention Coalition are working on,” Shaheen said.

Nashua High School South Senior and SADD officer Ainsley Mazerolle said one of the organization’s main goals is trying to bring awareness to the community about vaping.

“We know it is a very tricky situation and no matter what, kids are going to want to do it,” Mazerolle said.

Mazerolle said they are trying to bring a positive aspect to the issue by educating students in a fun way, such as during Red Ribbon Week, a prevention awareness campaign hosted annually in October, during which the students will be playing educational games and handing out prizes.

Grace Pecci may be reached at 594-1243 or gpecci@nashuatelegraph.com.