Alamance County school district implements new program to educate students on dangers of vaping

ALAMANCE COUNTY, N.C. – E-cigarettes and vaping are a growing concern inside classrooms across the Piedmont Triad and it could be impacting your child.

Educators say they see and hear of students vaping in the hallways, bathrooms, even in classrooms.

Some of the devices even look like USB drives, which can make it challenging for teachers to know a student even has one.

In 2018, the Centers for Disease Control found in middle school nearly five percent of students reported using an e-cigarette.

In high school, just over 20 percent of students reported using an e-cigarette. In 2011, only 1.5 percent of high school students reported using e-cigarettes.

In 2018, around 3.6 million high school and middle school students nationwide reported using e-cigarettes, that's up by 1.5 million from 2017.

These statistics are a big reason why school districts across the Triad are working to combat the use of e-cigarette and vape pens.

The Alamance-Burlington School System implemented a new curriculum this school year called Catch My Breath.

It's comprised of four lessons focused on teaching students about the health risks and dangers of e-cigarettes, while also giving them techniques to say no.

“A lot of them thought this was a healthy alternative. So, we’re really starting to open some eyes, and this is just the first year of the program where we are implementing it,” Jamie Athas said.

Athas is a health and physical education teacher at Williams High School and has been teaching the class.

The misconception that e-cigarettes are a healthy alternative to cigarettes is one of the challenges educators face.

The CDC says the use of cigarette smoking has dropped by 8 percent for high school students over the last seven years, but over the same period of time the use of e-cigarettes has risen nearly 20 percent.

“We have definitely come a long way when it comes to cigarettes, but now something is new and cooler out there, and it can be hidden, and people think they might be able to get away with it. So, they’re going to use it until we educate them even more on the product and the risk associated with the product,” Athas said.

Davidson County Schools say their middle and high school physical education teachers have been presented with the Catch My Breath curriculum as well.

The district is also looking at other curriculum options that could go into effect in the 2019-2020 school year.

At Winston-Salem Forsyth County Schools, Kathy FitzJefferies, the safe and drug free schools coordinator, says they are working with health teachers to have the most current material to integrate into health classes about e-cigarettes.

In August, teachers in the middle and high schools will even get training from the Catch My Breath program. They plan to increase the use of the curriculum.

In addition, the district is participating in studies regarding students perceptions and experiences with e-cigarettes to try and find the most effective ways to educate in the future.

Guilford County Schools currently holds workshops for parents, teachers and staff on the risks and use of e-cigarettes.

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