Suffolk County Executive Bellone Announces School Vaping Prevention Program

Amid Alarming Rise in E-cigarette Use Among Teens, New Pilot Program will Launch in Four Suffolk School Districts.

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Suffolk County, NY - January 22, 2019 - Suffolk County Executive Steve Bellone today announced the rollout of Vape Out, a comprehensive vaping prevention program to support school systems as they deal with record numbers of students using e-cigarettes on school grounds.
“The popularity of electronic cigarettes has exploded into mainstream culture to the point where school officials in Suffolk County have asked our public health officials for clarity and assistance in dealing with record numbers of students who are vaping on school grounds,” said Suffolk County Executive Bellone. “A few weeks ago, I signed legislation to increase the fine for the sale of all tobacco products, including vaping products, to minors. This month, we are piloting Vape Out and look forward to assisting school officials throughout our county in the coming months.”
Vape Out employs a three-pronged approach to vaping prevention, comprising a peer-to-peer education program, an alternative-to-suspension enforcement program, and a community-and-parent education forum. The Vape Out programs are being piloted in North Babylon, Hampton Bays, Port Jefferson and Bayport-Blue Point school districts. The first meeting will be held on Wednesday, January 30.
The Teens-Teaching-Teens Peer Education Program, approximately 30 student volunteers spend a full day learning about vaping and how to talk to younger students about the dangers of vaping. Presentation and communication skills are taught using dynamic, interactive-applied- improvisation methods. Peer Education Programs have been shown to be a protective factor in preventing risky behaviors for the teen presenters as well as for the students that they teach.
The second prong of the comprehensive program, the Alternative-to-Suspension Program, encourages school administrators to require students who have been reprimanded for vaping to attend a customized education intervention in lieu of school suspension. Students in this program will complete a self-assessment, discuss the harmful effects of vaping, demonstrate refusal skills, evaluate toxic media bombardment, and discuss the New York Adolescent Tobacco Use Prevention Act. The Office of Health Education has begun train-the-trainer programs for school staff who will be able to use health department resources and design and teach their own classes.
The third prong to the Vape Out program is community education. The Suffolk County Department of Health Service educators will conduct parent forums with parent-teacher organizations, youth bureaus and agencies and employ a variety of educational tools, including videos, props, power-point presentations, and role-play activities, to fully inform the public and professionals on the anatomy of this epidemic.
Suffolk County has been a statewide leader in the effort to protect youth from the harmful effects of vaping.  County Executive Bellone recently appeared on ABC's Good Morning America to discuss prevention and enforcement efforts underway in Suffolk County to combat illegal sales of e-cigarettes to minors.  The County Executive has also signed legislation to increase penalties for unlawfully selling nicotine products to those under 21, and supports legislation sponsored by Suffolk County Legislator Doc Spencer (D-Huntington) that would restrict flavored vape products across Suffolk County. 
Dr. James Tomarken, Commissioner of the Suffolk County Department of Health Services, said: “Vaping represents one of the biggest health hazards to youth since tobacco use and we need to get the word out.  The term ‘vaping’ itself is a misnomer that implies that these devices are delivering water vapor, when in fact they deliver an aerosol that may contain ultrafine particles that can be inhaled deep into the lungs, heavy metals, volatile organic compounds, and chemicals that hamper brain development and are linked to addiction, lung disease, and cancer.”
According to data from the Centers for Disease Control National Youth Tobacco Survey, e-cigarette use among U.S. high school students increased by 78 percent between 2017 and 2018, and the nation is now grappling with how to address the fact that more than 3.6 million high school and middle school students are currently using e-cigarettes. In the last days of 2018, one in five high school students and one in 20 middle school students reported using e-cigarettes.