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School District Joins Debate
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Dr. Victor DeNoble addressed OHS freshmen Tuesday during a presentation on tobacco and the science behind nicotine. A former employee of Philip Morris, the scientist was fired from the Big Tobacco company in 1984 after discovering and sharing with the company the long term dangers nicotine causes to the brain. He also warned against the use of e-cigarettes. Teresa Hammond/The Leader


As campuses throughout Oakdale Joint Unified School District prepare for Red Ribbon Week (Oct. 26 - Oct. 30) there is a new topic of concern on the district radar.

According to the result of findings from the 2014 California Healthy Kids Survey (CHKS) administered in December 2014, E-cigarettes have found their way into the hands of our district’s youth. There is still very little known about the long term effects of ‘vaping,’ as well as e-cigarettes which brings great concern to Armida Colón, OJUSD Director of State and Federal Programs.

“You don’t know what that liquid holds,” she said of the e-cigarette substance which creates the appeal.

The CHKS Survey is administered to students in grades 5, 7, 9 and 11 every two years. Results of the test are used for the development of data to create a better understanding of the relationship between students’ health behaviors and youth development programs.

“For the first time we noticed that the California Healthy Kids Survey included an assessment on e-cigarette use,” Colón said. “It’s the first time that we saw it on there; however for the first couple of years, since the last administration, we started to see … looking around us, in our community … we’ve got these Vape shops. We’ve got these smoke shops. They all come into the same category as the electronic nicotine devices.”

According to Colón a large part of the appeal is that they seem inoffensive, attributing the discreetness of the product as part of the appeal. Colón stated that being cautious and educating students will be an ongoing goal of the District, as little is still known about these products.

“Given my position, I try to stay abreast to the trends in our society,” she stated. “Then we got the California Healthy Kids results and we saw the use of electronic nicotine devices being used by our students. They’re being used more than marijuana, more than chew tobacco, more than traditional cigarettes. We really need to take a step back to see what are we doing with regards to prevention to really make sure our kids are really understanding the consequences of these devices, because they do come across as being harmless and that’s why it’s so appealing to the Middle School students.

“It doesn’t taste like a cigarette,” she added, “because they’re flavored. It doesn’t leave a bad taste. It may taste like bubble gum or a Pina Colada. They may not have ever had a Pina Colada in their life, but it’s appealing to the kids and it’s clean. It’s not messy.”

Project Alert is one way in which the District intends on addressing this latest trend. The curriculum is administered in the Spring to sixth grade students, as well as expanding on the conversation in the health classes at the Junior High School.

Secondary school sites are privy to additional education funding through the Tobacco-Use Prevention Education (TUPE) Program.

“E-cigarettes contain nicotine and other harmful chemicals, and the nicotine in them is as addictive as the nicotine in cigarettes,” California Department of Public Health (CDPH) director and state health officer Dr. Ron Chapman stated in a report issued by the state of California in January of this year.

“There is a lot of misinformation about e-cigarettes,” he stated. “That is why, as the state’s health officer, I am advising California to avoid the use of e-cigarettes and keep them away from children of all ages.”

The study shows a continued increase in usage from 2012 to 2013, noting young adults in California as three times more likely to use the product than those 30 and older. The report also stated that in 2014, 17 percent of 12th graders throughout the state, reported currently using e-cigarettes versus 14 percent using traditional cigarettes. Many e-cigarettes have the appearance of an ink pen and could easily be in a student’s possession while at school.

“In general we have seen a consistent decline in ATOD (Alcohol, Tobacco, and Other Drugs) use in our district which is incredibly encouraging,” Colon added, also confirming that all Oakdale school sites are tobacco free zones.

Colón shared that while the e-cigarette trend will not be part of the Red Ribbon Week lesson plan this year, it will be something she and her team continue to expand on in the way of educating the OJUSD student body, as well as staff and parents.