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Park City School District Addresses Vaping

The National Institute of Health, in their annual study found sharp increases in teen vaping. Local school districts are arealso seeing higher usage of vape products amidst the growing concerns about the dangerous health effects.

In 2018 the NIH surveyed 44,000 students asking about drug, alcohol, and cigarette use in 8th, 10th, and 12th graders.  About 37% of 12th graders reported vaping in 2018, compared with 28% in 2017. Vaping of each substance that was asked about increased. This includes nicotine, flavored liquids, marijuana, and hash oil.

Park City School District Associate Superintendent of Wellness Ben Belnap says the data from their Sharp Survey shows a tripling of the number of teens vaping in Summit County.

“Twenty percent of our students grades eight to twelve report they have tried it. And interestingly about a third of those who reported having used in the previous month before the survey, reported they had never tried a cigarette.”

Belnap says the results show that kids may be under the notion that vaping is not dangerous and not as bad as smoking cigarettes.  Belnap says the access to THC oils has become easier due to the legality of marijuana in adjacent states. And a lot of the juices contain nicotine along with other chemicals. The school district has programs to address the problem and help parents identify signs of their children using vape devices.

“Have incorporated a curriculum in our health classes, starting in Ecker Hill about vaping and the harms of it. We get into the details of the chemicals that are in the juices that our kids are vaping.  Our elementary councilors have a curriculum that they deliver to our kids going to each classroom and talk about the harms of it. Our councilors at the high school and at Treasure Mountain are incorporating this Prime for Life which is a drug prevention program.”

Belnap says most vaping is happening at the high school, in cars and off campus during lunch time.  It violates the Safe Schools policy to use vape products during school and a student doing so, could be suspended or expelled. He says they consider the addiction issue when deciding what’s best for the student. So, they try to avoid suspension because removing them from school can trigger a more dire situation.

“But there have been a few instances where we have found kids vaping in the bathrooms. There are some instances where we have caught kids actually in the classroom expelling the vape into their hoods or their sweaters. And it’s difficult to detect. And of course, our goal is not to respond with punitive measures but to respond with educational measures for our students.”

He says they’ve had vaping incidents at Ecker Hill Middle School in the past few years. Mostly they’re finding kids vaping nicotine. During the holiday break, they’ll install vape detectors in Ecker Hill, Treasure Mountain Junior High and Park City High School.

“It detects moisture, vapor, smoke and interestingly it detects loud noises that are consistent with bullying or fighting.”

Once the detector is triggered it will alert an administrator and a resource officer. Belnap says the district is hopeful that the detectors will act as a deterrent and keep kids from becoming addicted to nicotine along with preventing exposure to the dangerous chemicals that are found in the products.  

Below is a link to the Sharp Survey refered to in this report:

KPCW reporter Carolyn Murray covers Summit and Wasatch County School Districts. She also reports on wildlife and environmental stories, along with breaking news. Carolyn has been in town since the mid ‘80s and raised two daughters in Park City.
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