Addressing the youth vaping crisis requires a multifaceted approach that combines education, prevention, and treatment. Allocating litigation settlement and other funds strategically is one way to address the problem. Here are some suggestions on how Juul settlement funds and other funds could be allocated and strategically used to help address this problem:
- Education and Prevention Programs: Develop and implement comprehensive education campaigns for teenagers, parents, and educators. These campaigns should raise awareness about the risks and consequences of vaping, debunk myths about their harmlessness, and promote healthy alternatives. Programs can include presentations, workshops, and peer-led activities to discourage vaping and provide support for those struggling with addiction. Engaging social media platforms, schools, and community organizations can be effective in reaching the desired audience.
- Treatment and Cessation Programs: Provide evidence-based cessation programs that are both culturally tailored and appropriate for youth. Support existing initiatives that provide counseling, support groups, and nicotine replacement therapies to help youth quit vaping.
- Supportive School Disciplinary Practices: Support alternatives to punitive, exclusionary penalties like suspension from school and school activities. Such exclusionary approaches contribute to negative educational and life outcomes and undermine school goals for supporting healthy student development. Many schools currently lack the staff and training to effectively implement alternatives to exclusionary penalties, so a good use of newly acquired funds would be to implement training on safe and healthy alternatives to suspension.
- Regulation: Implement evidence-based policies to restrict access to vaping products for teenagers. This includes enforcing age verification systems, limiting flavors that appeal to youth, and implementing stricter marketing restrictions. Resources should be devoted to enforcement that holds retailers and the tobacco industry accountable and does not penalize youth. Purchase, use, and possession (PUP) penalties are ineffective and have unintended, lifelong consequences.
- Youth Engagement: Empower young people to be active participants in addressing the vaping crisis. Support youth-led initiatives, advocacy groups, and peer support networks that work to raise awareness, educate their peers, and promote healthier choices.
- Parent and Community Outreach: Engage parents and communities in the effort to combat teenage vaping. Provide resources, workshops, and support networks to help parents understand the risks, recognize signs of vaping, and address the issue effectively.
- Research: Allocate funds for research on the long-term health effects of vaping, especially in youth. This research can help gather evidence and inform policies and interventions. It can also support the development of effective cessation programs tailored specifically to teenage vapers.
- Data Collection: Improve data collection to understand vaping trends among youth, including successful policies and approaches that effectively decrease youth uptake and encourage cessation. This information can greatly assist policymakers and public health officials in tracking progress, identifying emerging challenges, and adapting interventions.
- Tobacco Product Waste: Collaborate with students, staff, faculty, and parents to educate them on the challenges associated with tobacco product waste disposal, promote responsible hazardous waste management, and raise awareness about environmental justice.
Remember that a comprehensive approach is essential to effectively address the teenage vaping crisis. Collaboration among government agencies, healthcare professionals, educators, parents, community organizations, and youth is crucial to maximize the impact of limited funds and to create lasting, positive change.
While addressing the issue of teenage vaping is important, implementing vape detectors and promoting a surveillance culture in schools may not be the most effective or beneficial approach. Here is why vape detectors may not be the best use of funds.
- Negative Impact on Racial Health Equity: Vape detectors may exacerbate existing health disparities by disproportionately targeting and penalizing certain racial or ethnic groups. This could perpetuate unequal treatment and contribute to a widening gap in health outcomes, highlighting the need for careful consideration of the potential unintended consequences on racial health equity when implementing such surveillance measures.
- Focus on Punishment rather than Prevention: Surveillance measures often emphasize punishment over prevention, which is not ideal in view of children’s vulnerability to predatory marketing by the tobacco industry. Instead, it is important to prioritize education, prevention, and support to help students make informed choices and cultivate healthier habits.
- Hurtful Impact on Trust and Relationships: Implementing a surveillance culture can harm relationships between students, teachers, and administrators, damaging the trust crucial for effective teaching and learning.
- False Sense of Security: Vape detectors alone may create a false sense of security, as determined students will find ways to circumvent them or move their activities off school grounds.
- False Positives and False Negatives: Vape detectors are not always accurate. False positives (detecting vaping when it hasn't occurred) and false negatives (failing to detect vaping when it has occurred) can lead to confusion, undermine the effectiveness of the system, and lead to problematic enforcement.
- Distracts from Comprehensive Approaches: Relying on surveillance measures can divert funding and attention from implementing comprehensive approaches to address the teenage vaping crisis.
- Tobacco Product Waste: Schools may not be prepared to properly handle the tobacco product waste problem that could result from the use of vape detectors. To ensure the safe and environmentally sound disposal of these products, schools need to follow appropriate protocols and hazardous waste practices.
- Unintended Consequences: Surveillance measures can have unintended consequences. They may create an atmosphere of fear and anxiety among students, stifling creativity, individuality, and healthy development.
In conclusion, it is crucial to strike a balance between addressing the vaping crisis and fostering a nurturing environment for students. Approaches that prioritize education, prevention, and support, while building trusting relationships, are more likely to lead to positive outcomes and long-term behavior change than those of a punitive approach.
Here are some reliable resources regarding effective youth prevention strategies. These materials provide evidence-based strategies for preventing youth commercial tobacco use and can be useful in developing effective prevention programs.
- Alliance for a Healthier Generation webpage resource.
Stanford REACH Lab resources on Tobacco Prevention Toolkit and Vaping Information, Solutions, and Interventions Toolkit.
- Commercial Tobacco Free K-12 School Model Policy, Public Health Law Center.
- Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s Youth and Tobacco Use webpage resource.
- Policy Playbook for E-Cigarettes, Vaping Prevention Resource & Public Health Law Center.
- Youth Purchase, Use, or Possession (PUP) Penalties, Public Health Law Center.
Willow Anderson and Marisa Katz, Staff Attorneys
December 7, 2023