Text program helps teens still struggling with…


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Updated 11:15PM

College student used app to help quit vaping

FOX 13 News

TAMPA, Fla.A dangerous addiction still haunts the halls of middle and high schools across the country. Smoking cigarettes used to be the debauchery of choice for young people, but when vaping took its place, some say the problem with nicotine addiction got much worse than ever before.

“Over the last couple of years, vaping has increased,” explained Michael Rowan, the principal of Wharton High School in Tampa. “It used to be where it was behind the building or in a bathroom. We’re an open campus, so we’ll see it in the hallways, in a cafeteria, in an open room. Mainly because you can’t see it, smell it, doesn’t really have any smoke coming from it, so it’s hard to detect.”

Vaping poses new challenges for teachers, parents, and administrators. Compared to cigarettes, it’s nearly undetectable inside bathrooms, always, and in outside areas. Some of the devices look like everyday tech gadgets, too.

“There’s a specific product that looks like a USB drive, so that can be concealed easily for them to use it without having a lot of people knowing that they’re using that product,” said pulmonologist Dr. Jose Luciano, of Baycare Health St. Petersburg.

Rowan, meanwhile, is doing what he can to stop the vaping trend in his school. Posters line the hallways. He’s enlisted the help of Narcotics Overdose Prevention Education, NOPE, to educate students and parents on the dangers.

“It’s a huge problem with students that would have never thought about smoking cigarettes because it’s nasty. Somehow or other they feel like this is kind of an antiseptic, and it’s no big deal. Some kids feel like there’s nothing but a water vapor in here so what possible harm could that be? That’s not true. There’s nicotine cartridges. It can also be a vehicle for other substances,” said Cathy Valdes with NOPE.

She claims there have been extreme cases of teens needing lung transplants.

Rowan added that there have been cases at his school of students who needed treatment at the hospital.

The executive director for Victory High, a school for teens recovering substance abuse, said addiction can push people to extreme behavior.

“I had a student that stole a car and was just trying to get to a place to get a vape. I’ve had students steal money to get vapes. So I think it leads to a lot of those addictive behaviors,” said Miller. “We see a lot of our students using vaping as a coping mechanism you know they’re self-medicating from anxiety, depression, anger.”

Despite federal regulations on vaping products in the last year, easy access remains a big problem. 

“There are vape shops everywhere. You see it just driving down the street. So it’s available to over 18 and then they just give it to the under 18,” said Valdes.

The addiction can typically begin with simple experimentation. College student Parker Kerns said for him, vaping took a mental toll.

“I started vaping when I was 14 as a freshman in high school. All my friends were doing it. I just wanted to be popular and be sociable. Pretty quickly I realized that there were some negative implications I didn’t know existed before. It affected my anxiety, stress, depression. Basically my entire mental health was just declining and I was addicted,” said Kerns.

He managed to quit vaping by using his phone. He enlisted in a text message program called “This Is Quitting” from the non-profit Truth Initiative. It aims to stop vaping addictions for those ages 13 to 24.

Truth representative Megan Jacobs said the text campaign works.

“Once you sign up, you tell us how old you are. What type of e-cigarette you use, where you are on the quitting journey. We send you back motivation, inspiration, tips and strategies, ways to build your confidence and learn skills to get through cravings and stressful situations without vaping,” said Jacobs.

Kerns said it didn’t take long for him to quit.

“About a week which is surprisingly quick, but I was very determined at the point that I had done it at that point I tried multiple other things and I was just ready to be done,” said Kerns.

Tobacco Free Florida also has a texting program for teens called “Live Vape Free.”

More resources are available: 

  • This Is Quitting
  • NOPE Hillsborough
  • Victory High School


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