Students and school leaders say vaping is a problem at Capital High School (CHS). State health officials report the issue stretches much farther than Helena.
“We definitely see more vapes than any other drug related issues at school,” said Brent Zanto, CHS principal. “Now it’s just trying to keep up with various trends and various ways where vapes can be stored.”
In Montana it is illegal for anyone under the age of 18 to publicly use an e-cigarette device or purchase any vaping products. But even with that barrier, CHS staff confiscate dozens of vaping products each year.
CHS isn’t the only school facing vaping problems.
“Vaping has affected all school districts just about in Montana,” said Kris Minard, a tobacco use prevention specialist with the Montana Office of Public Instruction. “We know that cartridges have been found on playgrounds. So it is happening down in upper elementary I would imagine, but definitely more so in high school.”
According to the 2018 Montana Risk Factor Surveillance System report, around 30 percent of high schoolers report using an e-cigarette device regularly. With only 5 percent of adults use saying they use vaping products regularly, state officials are worried teens are being targeted.
“We’re very concerned about it because this new product that really is new to the market, has taken youth by storm in the United States,” said Nicole Aune with the Montana Tobacco Use Prevention Program. “[E-cigarettes] are hooking a whole new generation to nicotine, and it’s really a generation that would have largely remained tobacco free and wouldn’t have been addicted to nicotine.”
Aune says one of the best ways to prevent teens from vaping is educating them about the real health concerns associated with them.
“Almost all e-cigarettes that are sold on the market contain nicotine, and we know that nicotine is not safe for youth and young adults because it affects the developing brain,” said Aune. “It harms learning, mood, behaviors. So these things are being altered by that nicotine chemical and can change your brain for the rest of your life.”
Resources are offered by the Montana Department of Health and Human Resources to help teens quit nicotine.
My Life, My Quit is a free quit program for teens. they can call or text 1-855-891-9989 to be connected with a coach who can provide free and confidential live counseling sessions.
This story was produced by the Journalism students of Capital High in partnership with MTN News. The subject of the story was selected by the students and MTN staff assisted them in making interview connections and producing the piece for air on TV.