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Two Schools Plan Anti-Vaping Town Halls

Thu, 09/26/2019 - 14:43
Christine Sampson

Over the course of the first 14 days of school this year, East Hampton High School administrators found nine students vaping on campus — a “suspendable offense,” Adam Fine, the school’s principal, said this week.

He did some math in his head. “I’m on pace for at least 80 to 100 incidents [of vaping] this year” at East Hampton, he said.

And it’s unacceptable, Mr. Fine said, to him and other local school administrators, who have announced two town hall-style meetings about the dangers of vaping. The first is on Wednesday at 7 p.m. at East Hampton High School, followed by a Southampton High School session next Thursday, also at 7 p.m.

The sessions are titled “Vaping: Harming Our Kids and Stealing Our Tax Dollars.” Other East End school districts and all community members have been invited to the meetings.

“I want to develop a health awareness in our community,” Mr. Fine said. “You’d be shocked to see the impact on the kids who vape versus the kids who don’t. What I’m seeing, in my opinion, is more kids have tried vaping than those who have not tried it. It’s pervasive.”

The tax impact of vaping has to do with the extensive resources schools spend on handling vaping incidents — such as the hours spent by administrators and teachers who deal with them, Mr. Fine said.

Speakers will include Victor DeNoble, a scientist who formerly worked for Philip Morris and is now known as one of the first whistleblowers on Big Tobacco, and Bonnie Halpern-Felsher, a professor of adolescent medicine and epidemiology at Stanford University.

A committee of student leaders is helping get the word out, Mr. Fine said, and LTV, the nonprofit East Hampton public access TV station, will film the East Hampton High School session.

Vaping is now prohibited in East Hampton schools under multiple policies. The Sag Harbor School Board

recently began formally including vaping in its policies that restrict tobacco and e-cigarette use. The Bridgehampton School’s official code of conduct prohibits all students, staff, and visitors from smoking “a cigarette, cigar, pipe, or electronic cigarette, or [using] chewing or smokeless tobacco.”

Mr. Fine said the school administration is also working on a proposal to reduce the length of time for which students caught vaping can be suspended in or out of school. What was once a five-day out-of-school suspension was eventually knocked down to three days. It may be further reduced, Mr. Fine said, with an anti-vaping educational component soon to be added to the suspension.

The New York State Public Health and Health Planning Council last week banned the sale of flavored e-cigarette cartridges in the state, acting on a proposal by Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo.

Time magazine quoted Governor Cuomo last week as saying, “We don’t really know the health consequences of these devices.”

According to Time, the New York State Department of Health released data showing that the prevalence of vaping among youth has reached nearly 40 percent of high school seniors and 27 percent of all high school students. In 2014, about 10.5 percent of high school students admitted to vaping — a figure that climbed to 27.4 percent in 2018.

Nationally, Time reported, President Trump has proposed banning vaping products and flavored e-cigarettes. Six vaping-related deaths and hundreds of illnesses have been reported across the country. Businesses and manufacturers of vaping products have begun to push back, Time reported, with some threatening legal action in New York.