How Minnesota Schools are Doubling Down on Anti-vaping Efforts

As teen vaping rates continue to rise, Minnesota educators are monitoring their classrooms and hallways for well-disguised vaping devices.

Some are shaped like USB flash drives that students can charge by plugging them in to their laptop. Others double as pens and highlighters. Some are even less conspicuous: shaped like a smart watch, an ID badge attachment and even a replacement hoodie string.

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‘We’re trying to rewrite the script’

In the Forest Lake Area Schools district, J.P. Jacobson, a middle-school principal, says the anti-vaping push has continued to focus on arming students with “good information, so they can make a good choice when there’s not an adult right there.”

That means talking about the health implications with students during advisory periods, reaching students in health classes and putting up anti-vaping posters.

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Building out recovery resources

Working with students in the Wayzata Public Schools district, Ali Wobschall, director of Partners in Prevention, says the addictive qualities of vaping make it particularly concerning.

“I think that’s one of the most difficult aspects of this,” she says. “Because the vape is so highly concentrated with nicotine, addiction is happening faster than with other substances our coalition works to address.”

So while last year’s anti-vaping campaign focused on getting information to students, educators and parents at the secondary level, she says, the focus this year has been on getting students into recovery.

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A less punitive approach

Likewise, in the Rosemount-Apple Valley-Eagan district, health staff are looking at ways to build out a more holistic approach to dealing with vaping in schools — a less punitive approach that’s better fit to address any related mental health issues.

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Health officials have linked recent vaping-related lung injuries to THC and vitamin E oil, mostly found in illegal vaping products. But even legal ingredients — like nicotine and formaldehyde — are “potential carcinogens and very toxic” says Zuckerman. And manufacturers aren’t required to list all of the ingredients, since they’re considered trade secrets.

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