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South Hills School District Combats Vaping

By Stephanie Kroll, Point Park News Service

Vaping has been a problem for high schools in the United States, and has been labeled an epidemic, according to the Food and Drug Administration. And Bethel Park High School is just one of the schools that has been dealing with it.

With the help of the FDA and the Real Cost Youth E-Cigarette Prevention campaign, Bethel Park is spreading the word to battle issues with JUULing in and around school,

One campaign tactic are hanging posters throughout the school. These posters take aim at explaining the harmful substances in the vapes. But those signs are not posted everywhere in the school, only in the locker rooms and the restrooms, spots students frequent to vape, according to principal Dr. Zeb Jansante.

“They [students] go to all means to try to vape,” Jansante said. “We’ve caught students vaping in classrooms, the hallways, and in places where you typically wouldn’t. That’s probably because it’s not as visible as regular tobacco, so they think they can conceal it much better.”

Although students are thinking of clever ways to vape during the school day, they cannot claim that they are doing so without knowing the punishments. Every year since 2014, the school reminds students it is forbidden to smoke in school and also educates them of its harmful effects.

They do so through the school’s health programs, grade level assemblies at the beginning of each year, and in the student handbook that is covered by homeroom teachers within a three- day time period.  

Students are made aware of the punishments they will receive when they are caught vaping. When they are first caught, they are suspended for a day and the school files a charge with the magistrate. Typically, the magistrate assigns community service and requires attendance at a smoking cessation class.  

Repeat offenders face additional consequences. But according to Jansante, “students usually don’t have more than one infraction.”

“Education and providing an understanding for students to make an informed decision is really what we can do to be preventative,” said Jansante.

A study done by Truth Initiative surveyed a group of 12-17 year olds to find out how they are getting their hands on vapes. The study found that about 74 percent got their e-cigarettes and tobacco products from retail stores such as gas stations, vape shops and retail stores.

Hannah Fleming, a junior at Bethel Park, found truth in that.

“I get pods myself because people don’t [ask for] ID,” she said. “And I actually started vaping because of my dad. He had a nic-free vape mod, I asked for it, and he was basically my hook-up when I was 15.”

But, for Nora, a senior who requested anonymity, she has a different reason for vaping.

“My friend in middle school first introduced smoking to me, and I’ve just been vaping as a stress relief ever since,” she said. “Between high school, work, college, and trying to get my mental health under control, it’s a lot. It [vaping] helps take the edge off.”

The vaping trend does not seem to be slowing down any time soon, said Jansante.

“If it stops, it’s going to be because it’s gonna be replaced by something else,” Jasante said. “All we can do is keep educating and hopefully makes kids understand the consequences of the vape.”

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