Vaping public health crisis hits Roanoke County teens

‘That nicotine and that addiction is so strong in vulnerable brains’

ROANOKE COUNTY, Va. – Vaping has been called the next public health crisis for teens. It’s a problem across the country, commonwealth and even in Roanoke County.

Northside High School’s School Resource Officer Victoria Schmitt said she’s caught kids as young as 12 years old vaping.

“It’s very concerning,” said Schmitt. "That’s what was really eye-opening to me.”

She said the scary part is that you never really know exactly what’s in vape pens or pods or what they can do to a developing brain. Vape pens are also small, easy to hide and easy for kids to get their hands on.

“We know what smoking does long-term, generally. But vaping hasn’t been around very long," said Schmitt. "There haven’t been a lot of studies done. We don’t know what the long-term chemical exposure does.”

She said kids will typically go into school bathrooms and share a vape device, which is an added risk during the COVID-19 pandemic that can spread the virus and cause lung damage making you more susceptible.

According to the 2020 National Youth Tobacco Survey published by the FDA and CDC, 19.6% of high school students and 4.7% of middle school students reported currently using e-cigarettes or other vaping products.

From 2019, the total number of U.S. kids and teens who vape dropped by 1.8 million to about 3.6 million. However, Nancy Hans who serves as the executive director of the Prevention Council of Roanoke County said that number is still too high.

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