Guest Opinion: Montana Principals: Vaping Impacting Our Kids And Schools


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Guest Opinion: Montana Principals: Vaping Impacting Our Kids And Schools
Guest Opinion: Montana Principals: Vaping Impacting Our Kids And Schools

As principals we strive to ensure our schools are engaging, safe and healthy environments that promote learning. However, youth vaping in Montana is threatening our kids’ health and safety and creating unnecessary barriers to academic success.

Montana has a serious problem with youth e-cigarette use. Our most current Montana Youth Risk Behavior Survey data tell us 26% of our high school students currently vape and nearly half (48%) of them have tried vaping. We are encouraged that most Montana youth report they do not vape, but we are very concerned about the health and well-being of the one-in-four students who do.

While youth vaping is a discipline problem that can disrupt learning in our schools, it’s become an addiction problem too. Like all other tobacco products, electronic cigarettes contain nicotine, an addictive drug that can harm the developing brain. Nicotine impacts the portions of the brain that control attention and learning; its use can increase symptoms of anxiety and amplify depression. Nicotine use in adolescence may also increase the risk for future addiction to other drugs. It’s also important to be aware that some principals report kids are vaping marijuana and other drugs, in addition to tobacco products.

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Devices that show up in our schools come in a myriad of shapes and sizes, many that resemble school supplies like highlighters, markers and USB drives. It can be very difficult to identify what has been referred to as stealth vaping in our buildings.

We are concerned that these highly addictive products come in flavors especially attractive to kids. Flavors like cotton candy, mango pineapple ice, skittles and blue raspberry are hooking our kids and impacting their lives physically, mentally, socially, emotionally and financially.

Principals, teachers and counselors are connecting kids to resources to help address an addiction to electronic cigarettes. Quitting resources like the state of Montana’s My Life My Quit website (mt.mylifemyquit.org) are free, confidential and specifically designed for youth. We know that prevention is key. We urge parents to talk to their kids about the harmful risks of vaping; you have a great influence on the healthy choices your kids are making.

In short, the notion that vaping is somehow safe and harmless to youth is false and Montana’s standing as the state with the second highest incidence of youth e-cigarette use calls for corrective action. We urge Montana decision makers at the state and local levels to help us address this problem and put the best practices for youth tobacco use prevention into action.

Jay Wahl, Skyview High School, Billings

Shelli Strouf, Billings Senior High School, Billings

Jody Sulser, Lewis and Clark Middle School, Billings

 Annie Begger, Wibaux Public Schools, Wibaux

Becky Carlson, Will James Middle School, Billings

Jeremy Carlson, Billings West High School, Billings

Michael Thomas, Medicine Crow Middle School, Billings

Matt Clouser, Billings Career Center, Billings

Ashley Copple, Sidney Middle School, Sidney

For full list of signers go to billingsgazette.com.

Paul Condon, Hays/Lodgepole Schools, Hays and Lodgepole

Len Dorscher, Thompson Falls Middle School, Thompson Falls

Carl Dynneson, Sidney High School, Sidney

Geoff Habel, Great Falls High, Great Falls

Kim Hanks, Wolf Point High School, Wolf Point

Ashley Henigman, Sacajawea Middle School, Bozeman

Brad Holloway, Glacier High School, Kalispell

Travis Johnson, Butte High Career Center, Butte

Tryg Johnson, Kalispell Middle School, Kalispell

Kevin Kenelty, Ronan High School, Ronan

Katy Kennedy, Glendive Middle School, Glendive

Brian Kessler, East Helena High School, East Helena

Jon Konen, Columbia Falls High School, Columbia Falls

Jennifer LaFromboise-Wagner, Browning High School, Browning

Eric A. Larson, Stevensville High School, Stevensville

Patrick McClellan, Chief Joseph Middle School, Bozeman

Jamie McGraw, C.M. Russell High School, Great Falls

Brian Miller, North Middle School, Great Falls

Judson Miller, Hellgate High School, Missoula

Keith Miller, East Middle School, Butte

Ted Miller, Columbia Falls Middle School, Columbia Falls

Dan Mills, Bozeman High School, Bozeman

Matt Molyneaux, Chinook Jr./Sr. High School, Chinook

Lynsi Morris, East Valley Middle School, East Helena

Ryon Noland, Plains High School and Junior High School, Plains

Mike Olson, Culbertson High School, Culbertson

Michele Paine, Flathead High School, Kalispell

Kyle Paulson, Belt Public Schools, Belt

Amy Ree, Dawson County High School, Glendive

Erica Schnee, Gallatin High School, Bozeman

Steve Thennis, Helena High School, Helena

Stephanie Thennis, Sentinel High School, Missoula

Brett Zanto, Capital High School, Helena

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