CCSD speaker to address vaping issue in schools

Published 10:07 am Saturday, January 20, 2024

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CCSD will put on vaping awareness presentations for middle and high school students in the district, as the problem in the district’s schools and across the country worsens. 

Timothy Shoemaker is hosting four presentations on Jan. 22 on the risks of vaping for each middle and high school in the district. Shoemaker is an author, school consultant and retired police sergeant with certifications as an SRO (School Resource Officer), DARE and LEAD officer, according to his website. The presentation in Lee and Chambers counties will be Shoemaker’s first speaking engagement in the state. 

On Monday, W.F. Burns and Valley High presentations will take place at the Langdale Auditorium, while LaFayette High and J.P. Powell will be in the high school’s auditorium later that day. Shoemaker will also be presenting for parents and community members of both counties on Jan. 23 at 6 p.m. CT in Auburn University’s Student Activities Center. 

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In the CCSD press release, the district stated that participating in these events is, “to battle the epidemic vaping crisis with our youth.” 

It clarifies that vaping is not just a problem in Chambers County but throughout the country. 

E-cigarettes are the umbrella term for devices like vapes, pens and USB sticks. Most of these devices have a battery, a heating element, and a place for liquid. An aerosol is created when the E-cigarette heats the liquid, which is inhaled similarly to other ways of smoking. The CDC found that e-cigarettes contained highly addictive nicotine, flavorings like diacetyl which has been linked to serious lung disease, other cancer-causing substances and heavy metals like nickel, tin, and lead. 

In a study completed by the International Journal on Drug Policy, a lack of regulation has meant some e-products labeled as “nicotine-free” have been found to have trace amounts of nicotine. While research on the health effects of e-cigarettes is relatively new, the chemicals within the inhaled liquid have known health effects. 

Nicotine is known to be highly addictive and harmful to brain development in adolescents and young adults. The aerosol created by e-cigarettes can allow smaller particles of cancer-causing chemicals to reach the lungs. The 2020 Alabama State Health Assessment from the Department of Public Health states that 54.4 percent of all high schoolers have tried using an electronic vapor device. 

Chambers County is not immune to the problem. However, they are attempting to address the issue in multiple ways. The CCSD code of conduct has disciplinary measures when students are caught with a device. 

For their first offense, the student receives two days of out-of-school suspension (OSS) and two of in-school suspension (ISS), where they go through an anti-vaping program. The second offense can have up to 5 days of OSS and ISS, along with the program. The principal or other school official will also submit a petition to the juvenile court. For the third offense, there is another petition to the court, and up to 5 days OSS and 10 days ISS.  

“They become addicted so quickly. That then the consequences don’t even really faze them because they’re already addicted to it,” Chambley admits. 

Chambley said that the disciplinary actions have ramped up in recent years, as the problem of vaping has increased in the schools.

“We know we’re not going to be able to attack this just from a discipline standpoint, we’re going to have to attack this from an educational standpoint, for the kids but also with the parents, because a lot of parents don’t realize their kids are doing it,” he said.  

He adds that the numbers in recent years of tobacco-related offenses, specifically e-cigarettes, have decreased. Chambley posits that the kids are stopping vaping, but just getting better at hiding their devices. 

“We need the kids to understand a broader sense of education for them regarding nicotine and how addictive nicotine is and how dangerous these products can be,” Chambley said. 

The push for awareness has been going on for a while. According to Chambley, the school has partnered with the American Cancer Association and East Alabama Mental Health to pass out literature and provide education outreach to kids and parents at school events. 

Chambley worries about pods and cartridges containing even more harmful chemicals than nicotine. 

“In Chambers County, we have not found any vapes that our kids have been in possession with that have had fentanyl in them,” Chambley said. “Some of our law enforcement have confiscated vapes and pods that have traces of fentanyl in them. 

All CCSD nurses are equipped with Narcan, a spray that counteracts the effects of a drug overdose. 

David Owen said that Inspire Academy students are making vape disposal bins if any of the kids are moved to give up their e-cigarettes after the presentation. Chambley adds that they chose the speaker because they have heard the presentation is especially moving. 

“We’re not going to sweep it under the rug and make people think we don’t have a problem because the parents need to know, the teachers need to know, everybody needs to know,” Chambley said.