Addressing Student Use of Tobacco and Vaping Products

in Kane County: A Toolkit for Schools and Health Educators​​

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Introduction

In Kane County, 17% of 12th grade students reported using any tobacco products or e-cigarettes or vaping products in the past year. Even products that claim not to contain nicotine, a chemical that harms brain development, have been found to contain large amounts. Our youth and their caregivers may not be aware of the known dangers of these products. 
 

This toolkit has been created to help Kane County school administrators, health educators and parents address the use of e-cigarettes and other vaping devices in students. This toolkit offers suggestions and resources to assist school administrations, health educators and school policy change makers who wish to protect the health and safety of our youth through the development and implementation of a comprehensive tobacco school code policy that includes e-cigarettes and the provision of tobacco prevention and support services.


What are Electronic Cigarettes?

Electronic cigarettes are battery-powered devices that heat a liquid and turn it into an aerosol that users inhale into their lungs. The liquid used in e-cigarettes often contains nicotine and flavorings. This liquid is sometimes called “e-juice,” “e-liquid,” “vape juice,” or “vape liquid.”
Users inhale e-cigarette aerosol into their lungs. This aerosol contains flavorings, volatile organic compounds (VOC), other harmful chemicals, and almost always contains nicotine. E-cigarette devices can be used to deliver marijuana and other drugs. These devices can resemble traditional tobacco cigarettes, cigars, or pipes, or even everyday items like pens, USB flash drives, even smart watches and hoodies. E-cigarettes are known by many different names. They are sometimes called “e-cigs,” “e-hookahs,” “mods,” “vape pens,” “vapes,” “tank systems,” and “electronic nicotine delivery systems (ENDS).”

The aerosol produced by the e-cigarette or vaping device almost always contains nicotine, and we know nicotine is harmful to the developing adolescent brain. One JUUL pod (JUUL is a very popular vaping device that looks like a USB flash drive) contains as much nicotine as a traditional pack of cigarettes, yet many young users don’t know that it contains nicotine at all. 

Other chemicals or ingredients used in e-juice that may be harmless on their own become dangerous when heated and inhaled into the lungs. This has become even more evident with the vaping-related lung illnesses and deaths that are affecting thousands of people in the US. 

  • Most e-cigarettes (vapes) contain nicotine—the addictive drug in regular cigarettes, cigars, and other tobacco products.
  • Some vape product labels do not disclose that they contain nicotine, and some vape liquids marketed as containing 0% nicotine have been found to contain nicotine.
  • Nicotine can harm the developing adolescent brain. The brain keeps developing until about age 25.
  • Using nicotine in adolescence can harm the parts of the brain that control attention, learning, mood, and impulse control.
  • Each time a new memory is created or a new skill is learned, stronger connections – or synapses – are built between brain cells. Young people’s brains build synapses faster than adult brains. Nicotine changes the way these synapses are formed.
  • Using nicotine in adolescence may also increase risk for future addiction to other drugs.


General Tobacco and Vaping Youth Resources
When schools, healthcare providers and parents are aware of the facts, they can support students in prevention and cessation efforts. 

  • CDC Infographic about USB-shaped e-cigarettes and actions that parents, educators, and health care providers can take to protect kids


Tobacco Industry Targets Kids

Even though Illinois’ Tobacco 21 law makes it illegal for anyone under the age of 21 to purchase tobacco products including e-cigarettes, kids are still finding ways to vape. Companies are always trying to come up with new, creative ways to keep kids vaping, so the devices are constantly evolving. 

  • The New Look of Nicotine Addiction - Vaping and Tobacco Industry Tactics




Information for School Administrators and Health Educators

Smoking/Vaping Curricula
Teachers, health educators and school administrators have the tough task of not only trying to communicate to their students the dangers of vaping, but also keeping these devices out of their schools. There are free curricula available to help schools to address both challenges. 

  • The CATCH My Breath E‑Cigarette & JUUL Prevention Program is a free, best-practices youth E-cigarette and JUUL prevention program developed by The University of Texas Health Science Center at Houston (UTHealth) School of Public Health. The program provides up-to-date information for teachers, parents, and health professionals to equip students with the knowledge and skills they need to make informed decisions about the use of e-cigarettes, including JUUL devices. CATCH My Breath utilizes a peer-led teaching approach and meets national and state health education standards. This curriculum includes presentation slides and educational handouts for each of the lesson plans suitable for grades 5-12.   
  • Stanford University’s Tobacco Prevention Toolkit is a set of free, theory-based and evidence-informed resources created by educators, parents, and researchers aimed at preventing middle and high school students’ use of tobacco and nicotine products. Includes presentation slides, discussion guides, Kahoot activities and more on topics including e-cigarettes and vaping, hookah, smokeless tobacco and nicotine addiction.
  • ASPIRE (A Smoking Prevention Interactive Experience) is a free online prevention education resource from The University of Texas MD Anderson Cancer Center. ASPIRE delivers tobacco prevention education to teens and adolescents at a self-directed pace.
  • Vaping: Know the Truth is a free digital learning youth vaping prevention curriculum educating students about the health dangers of e-cigarette use and reverse the pervasive youth vaping epidemic, created by Truth Initiative and Kaiser Permanente in collaboration with the American Heart Association. In addition to encouraging students to live vape-free lives, this self-led interactive-curriculum offers resources to help young people who are currently using e-cigarettes to quit through a youth quit vaping program called This is Quitting.
  • Scholastic Get Smart About Tobacco is a science, health and English language arts curriculum for grades 3-5. 
  • The Real Cost of Vaping is a collaboration between the U.S. Food and Drug Administration and Scholastic with information and lesson plans for grades 6-8 and 9-12.
  • smokeSCREEN - A smoking prevention video game created to compliment existing prevention curricula created by play2PREVENT.
  • Know the Risks: A Youth Guide to E-cigarettes – A presentation from the CDC’s Office on Smoking and Health to educate youth on e-cigarettes. This resource is intended for adults who educate or serve youth ages 11–18 and includes a document with talking points.



Smoke-Free Campus Tobacco Policies
The Smoke-free Illinois Act prohibits smoking in virtually all public places and workplaces, including offices, theaters, museums, libraries, educational institutions, schools, commercial establishments, enclosed shopping centers and retail stores, restaurants, bars, private clubs and gaming facilities.

Schools and school districts have the authority to create their own policies with regard to tobacco/e-cigarette use on school property for students, staff, and visitors. Most Kane County schools have policies relating to tobacco use and tobacco products in schools and on school properties, but some policies do not include e-cigarettes. Some schools focus on enforcement of their policies through suspensions and detentions, and do not educate and promote the cessation of tobacco use. Kane County schools and districts can strengthen their existing policies by modifying them to include e-cigarettes and promote enforcement through education instead of suspension. 

Model Tobacco-Free School Campus Policy
Kane County Schools prohibit student and staff use of tobacco and electronic cigarettes, but administrators can take steps to further protect the health of students by including policies for signage that clearly notify students, staff and visitors about the 100% tobacco-free schools policy, enforce non-punitive intervention and educational consequences for students engaging in the prohibited behavior, and mandate the provision of cessation referrals and other prevention education.

Administrators can enhance their district or school’s existing policies using Kane County youth tobacco use data and smoke-free campus sample text provided in the following resources: 

  • Youth Survey (IYS) Kane County

Enforcement Through Education Not Suspension 
Research suggests that school policies prohibiting the use of tobacco products, when consistently enforced, are an essential part of lowering the rate of tobacco use among adolescents. However, it is important that these policies are balanced with educational programming so that students can understand the life-long consequences of using these addictive products, and promote cessation from these products. 

While students who violate the rules of the school/district should be held accountable, discipline that relies solely on detention and suspension does not effectively teach students why using e-cigarettes and vaping products is dangerous. Schools should consider having students complete educational programs on why e-cigarette use is dangerous, and what future consequences these students could face with continued use. 

  • The MY Healthy Future Course from Stanford Medicine is part of the Tobacco Prevention Toolkit’s Healthy Futures Program. This course is for any student caught using tobacco/vaping on school campus, or anyone working with students who want to quit. This new, online, self-paced course can be completed independently by students in 40-60 minutes.
  • The American Lung Association’s free tobacco education program, Intervention for Nicotine Dependence: Education, Prevention, Tobacco and Health (INDEPTH), offers an alternative to suspension/detention that helps schools and communities address the teen vaping problem in a more supportive way. The program is free for any school or community that wishes to help our teens make healthier choices.
  • Schools can also consider facilitating the American Lung Association's Not on Tobacco (N-O-T) program, a voluntary youth-centered cessation program inclusive in addressing all tobacco product use, including e-cigarettes. This program is intended for those who request additional support after participating in INDEPTH.
  • My Life, My Quit™ is a free, confidential expert resource and coaching line available to teens to call or text for tips and support to quit smoking and/or vaping. 
  • The Illinois Tobacco Quitline (ILTQ) offers a six-week cessation program that matches tobacco users with expert tobacco-cessation specialists to create a personalized quit plan. ITQL now offers counseling for anyone ages 13-17 without parental consent. Offers free posters, rack cards and more. The Kane County Health Department can help schools, health educators and healthcare providers become an ILTQ Referral Partner. Email us at kanequits@countyofkane.gov for more information.

Educate Staff and Parents
E-cigarettes and other vaping products are often not easily recognizable. Knowing what these products look like can be a helpful part of addressing student use at school. Educating staff about these products and about your school’s policy to address them is an important part of strategy to reduce student use.

Presentations about E-cigarettes for School Staff /Parents 


Supporting Students with Nicotine Withdrawal Symptoms and Coping Mechanisms
Because the nicotine in tobacco is highly addictive, students who quit may experience nicotine withdrawal symptoms. These students may not know, or wish to admit, that they are nicotine addicted. Two factors will substantially enhance a student's odds of success: dependency education and ongoing support.

Common nicotine withdrawal symptoms include:
  • Nicotine cravings 
  • Anger, frustration, and irritability
  • Difficulty concentrating
  • Insomnia
  • Restlessness
  • Anxiety
  • Depression
  • Hunger or increased appetite
  • Other, less common nicotine withdrawal symptoms include headaches, fatigue, dizziness, coughing, mouth ulcers, and constipation

Resources for Coping with Withdrawal Symptoms
 

KaneQuits, the Kane County Tobacco Control and Prevention Program

KaneQuits, the Kane County Tobacco Control and Prevention Program can help schools develop a stronger school tobacco policy that includes e-cigarettes and anti-tobacco education as an alternative to suspension, and provide schools with updated educational information and tools to help keep their students tobacco-free. We can also provide you with No Smoking or No Vaping window clings to remind students and visitors that your school is a tobacco-free campus. To request materials or assistance, email us at: kanequits@countyofkane.gov



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