A national vaping epidemic is negatively impacting the metal health of middle school and high school students. Unfortunately, the number of students using e-cigarettes is expected to increase over the 2.5 million middle and high school students who reportedly vaped in 2022.
Cambridge City School District is trying to combat that trend locally. The school district was recently awarded a $99,681.55 Stronger Connections Health and Safety Grant. The two-year grant (2023-2024 and 2024-2025 school years) will be used to educate students, teachers, parents, and the community about the consequences of vaping.
“Vaping is our biggest discipline problem at the Middle School and High School, and it has affected both of our elementary buildings as well,” said Rose Marie Daymut, director of federal programs and 6-12 curriculum. “When students vape, it doesn’t just affect them physically, it affects their mental health and their ability to learn.”
“I believe vaping is worse than smoking cigarettes,” Daymut said. “There is not a correlation between cigarettes and learning but there is a documented correlation between vaping and learning and it’s not good.”
That is why Daymut made the extra effort to apply for a Tier 3 grant earning Cambridge Schools an additional $60,000 to address the vaping health crisis.
All school districts and community schools that applied for the Stronger Connections Grant received a Tier 1 or Tier 2 award based on health and safety factors collected from data, including rates of poverty, chronic absenteeism, and exclusionary discipline. Cambridge was awarded $39,681.55 in Tier 1 and 2 funds.
Eligible schools and districts that demonstrated the highest need and applied for additional funding received an additional Tier 3 amount. The Tier 3 grantees collaborated with local stakeholders and community partners to determine the health and safety needs of their communities and plan for use of funds to support students and educators.
“When I researched vaping, I found out that our community has very limited resources for providing education to our families and our students on this topic,” Daymut said. “Several community organizations want to be involved and help fight this epidemic.”
Those organizations include Guernsey County Juvenile Probation Office, the Guernsey County Health Department, the OSU Extension Office, and the Guernsey County Family and Children First partnership.
“We’re going to create a community team so we can actually share this information in the community,” Daymut added.
While some of the services that fall under the Stronger Connections Grant are still being implemented, the goal, according to Daymut, is clear, “To educate students, our staff, our families, and our community.”
That started during the first week of class. Any student who is caught vaping will not only receive in-school suspension but will participate in a vape education program.
“In previous school years, if a student had a vaping offense, they were put into in-school suspension and that was where it ended,” Daymut said. “So now, they are actually going to do a program to learn about vaping during their in-school suspension.”
Students also will learn about cessation programs that are available to help them quit vaping.
In addition, all students in the Middle School and High School will be attending a Vaping Awareness Assembly at Pritchard Laughlin Civic Center on Aug. 29.
The assembly features Robb Holla a preeminent author and youth empowerment speaker renowned for his ability to speak to teens on their level. Holla will teach students the truth about marketing messaging, the consequences of vaping, the science of vaping, the power of influence and perception and encourage them to make positive choices.
The district is also providing educational materials to teachers and staff members starting with the book Vaping 101, A Q&A Guide for Teachers and Parents on the Dangers of Vaping which answers many questions about vaping and the consequences of vaping.
The grant will also pay for vape detectors to be installed at the Middle and High schools.
* Statistics shared by the Truth Initiative, America's largest nonprofit public health organization committed to making tobacco use and nicotine addiction a thing of the past.