BOISE, Idaho — The Boise and West Ada school districts are hoping to combat the teen vaping epidemic by raising awareness and educating students and parents.
On Tuesday, KTVB held a poll and asked if you thought we had an underage vaping problem in the Treasure Valley? Ninety-five percent of the people who responded said 'yes.'
“My oldest was kind of a struggle to keep him out of that circle and no matter how hard I’d try he'd have access to them elsewhere,” Amber Richardson, mother of four, said.
Richardson’s kids have either tried using vape or have been exposed to vaping through friends.
“I tell my kids all the time, your friends are vaping an oil and it's not going to break down just because it's in a vapor, it's going to be an oil in your lungs as well,” Richardson said.
While e-cigarettes are illegal for people younger than 18, it hasn't stopped the trend from growing.
“We are seeing a huge increase in student use,” West Ada School District Counseling Coordinator and Drug Education Coordinator, Dawn Tolan, said. “For the school year of 2017-2018, our total violations were 442 violations, this past school year, they jumped to 713.”
The past violations included e-cigarettes, tobacco use and other drugs and alcohol. For the first time, the school district is now tracking e-cigarette citations separately. So far, there have been 15 violations during this new school year.
“I talked to a lot of even staff members here that have kids who are vaping and they're like what do we do, how do I help this? and we really feel like just bombarding them with information about what's happening and what can happen helps,” Tolan said.
She goes on to say educating students and parents is instrumental in ending the epidemic.
"We have one high school right now where they are going around with the school resource officer to the classrooms and talking about e-cigarettes," Tolan said.
In Boise, police have already handed out 131 citations to minors on or near schools this year, according to the Boise Police Department. Those minors were in possession of either tobacco or e-cigarettes.
“Intervention is key if we know a student is having an issue with vaping reaching out to them and their family and provide them with resources,” Boise School District spokesperson Dan Hollar said.
Earlier this year, the Boise School District held a vape awareness night to warn parents and students about the dangers of vaping.
"You only have one body and you only have one life and it's paramount that we understand that what you ingest, whether it's food or in this case vaping, it can have effects and we're starting to see that come out nationwide," Hollar said.
Richardson also recommends parents, like herself, keep an open dialogue with their kids and educate themselves when it comes to the risks associated with vaping.
"Kids these days don't realize they're essentially the guinea pigs of this generation," Richardson said. "It took how many years to get the long-term results of smoking."
United Way, Tobacco Free Idaho Alliance and Boise State’s Eta Sigma Gamma are holding a teen vaping epidemic conference on September 23 at the Boise State Student Union Building.