DERBY, Kan. (KSNW) – The Derby School district has implemented new vaping prevention methods this year.
“Over the past few years, it’s become more of just a norm,” Derby High School principal Gretchen Pontious said. “That’s what people do. And they don’t think twice about it in a lot of circumstances. It’s accessible. They keep it in their pockets. It’s easy to pull out and use it and then put it back. So I think that initially when it came out, it was a new thing. It wasn’t a fad we weren’t really sure. Fast forward to now, it’s definitely just a norm.”
There is a new mandatory curriculum that fifth to 11th graders will take, and 12th graders will take it as needed. It teaches students how addictive vaping can be and how it can affect them in the long term.
“Those preventative pieces are more of a norm that’s going to be taking place where in the past, we were trying to figure out what should we do. I think all schools are facing this. It’s not just a Derby thing. It’s schools across the nation. So really figuring out how we can all band together to help prevent this and educate kids on it,” Pontious said.
They also installed vape detectors in the bathrooms at the middle schools and high schools.
“When this is happening in our school, we can respond to that and try to help educate them from there, letting them know this isn’t a safe thing to do,” Pontious said.
Another program they started is Panther Watch. Parents and community members can apply to be positive adult influences in the schools.
“Asking them to come in and start building relationships with our students from greeting them at the doors, from walking around in the hallways, around in the lunchroom, building those positive adult influences with kids,” Pontious said.
Pontious is encouraging parents to talk to their kids about the dangers of vaping.
“For them to understand what it looks like and where it can be concealed, like under some hoodies have spots sewn into where they can just slip it in there, putting them in their sock, so really knowing what they look like, some of them can even look like highlighters so just really educating themselves on what they look like and where kids are getting them and where they’re hiding them I think will help them as well,” Pontious said.
Dr. Amy Seery is a pediatrician at Ascension Via Christi and says there are a variety of consequences to vaping. She says batteries have been known to explode, causing facial burns and loss of tissue and teeth. She says vaping can rot and yellow your teeth.
“The nicotine component causes a lot of vasoconstriction, meaning their blood vessels supplying nutrition to their teeth start to not function well,” Dr. Seery said. “Then, they also start having problems with fast heart rate, headaches. It’s not uncommon to become addicted, especially to nicotine or some of the other substances included, and so you can get very shaky, it can be hard to concentrate, it can disrupt sleep.”
Vaping also can cause fast heart rate, headaches, and lung damage long term.
“When you’re putting a lot of it in the body, it causes heart disease, can cause difficulty with lung function,” Dr. Seery said. “You don’t grow as well, your brain doesn’t function as well. You don’t sleep as well when you put all those things in the long term over decades. Your body just doesn’t thrive.”
She says people are getting unintended exposures, but researchers don’t know the full consequences of that yet.
“What’s being exhaled is still lingering in the air, and a lot of the oily substances that are used to hold certain substances in suspension for vaping, when exhaled, those oil droplets are accumulating on surfaces, so people who are nearby or in a household, for example, may have substances they don’t want contaminated – their clothing, furniture and now that’s getting absorbed through their skin,” Dr. Seery said.
She also says she has seen multiple athletes noticing changes in their performance.
“They’re struggling to catch their breath. They can’t control their heart rate and get their max performance as much as they would want to,” Dr. Seery said.
Dr. Seery says there’s also an economic piece to kids using vapes.
“How much money do kids want to waste on something where they become addicted and it manipulates them, their health, choices, and just their performance in life later on? So what seems like a fun, maybe party activity very quickly can spiral into a very lifelong habit with consequences,” Dr. Seery said.