Gov. Mike DeWine is looking to curb youth smoking and vaping, calling for Ohio to increase the purchase age for tobacco and vape products to 21. The move comes as several school districts in Dayton’s southern suburbs have taken a proactive approach to address the issue along with substance abuse.
DeWine said he and his staff will use the bully pulpit across Ohio to push to raise the tobacco purchase age and increase awareness about the dangers of vaping and smoking, particularly among youths.
“This is a public health crisis,” DeWine said.
Sarah Swan, district spokeswoman for Centerville schools, said like most schools in the area, Centerville has been dealing with an increase in vaping and Juuling this year, especially among high school students.
Joan Bline, Oakwood High School’s prevention intervention counselor, said the school has addressed vaping this year with a mixture of guest speakers and creative learning experiences.
While binge drinking and opioid use are declining nationally among high schoolers, health officials are concerned that teens are vaping at record amounts.
The number of high school seniors who reported vaping within the last year increased nearly 10 percent from 2017 to 2018, according to new report from the University of Michigan and the National Institute on Drug Abuse.
Locally, “Students are facing consequences according to the code of conduct in our student handbook,” Centerville’s Swan said. “As we move into next school year, we are working to incorporate an educational piece into those consequences.”
Educating students on the dangers of smoking and vaping is just one part of the effort for Centerville.
“Our school resource officers have done training with all of our administrators as well as staff members at the middle and high school levels, and SROs and our student-led BOLD (Building Our Lives Drug-free) group from Centerville High School have been working hard to educate middle and high school students about the dangers of vaping, Juuling and e-cigarettes,” Swan said.
In Oakwood, Bline said a guest speaker, Jan Scaglione, toxicologist from Cincinnati Children’s Hospital, talked to students in grades 7-12 during National Drug Facts Week.
“It’s harmfulness was talked about extensively,” Bline said. “The high school production class created a video which was shown to students in grades 7-12.”
Anti-vaping posters donated by Scholastic have been placed in all student bathrooms and the dangers of vaping have been covered in the high school health class.
“High school BOLD members talked to seventh and eighth graders about avoiding vaping during their Take 5 presentations this spring,” Bline said.
The South Suburban Coalition, formed a decade ago, is an eight-community coalition advocating for youth by promoting healthy choices and positive alternatives to reduce underage drinking and other drug use.
The coalition is made up of youth, parents, businesses, professionals and other community or school volunteers from Centerville, Kettering, Miami Township, Miamisburg, Moraine, Oakwood, Washington Township and West Carrollton.
Centerville School Board President David Roer chairs the South Suburban Coalition and said the BOLD students have taken ownership of tackling the drug and alcohol awareness message.
“They are working on developing programs and have ideas coming through everyday,” Roer said.
Officer John Davis of the Centerville Police Department said law enforcement has ramped up operations to combat underage smoking and vaping.
This year so far, there have been 11 arrests for vaping and one for tobacco, he said.
Officer Joe Ferrell, a spokesman for the Kettering Police Department, said school resource officers teach a vaping class to that is available to any school staff.
“Enforcement is typically school consequences and a summons into juvenile court,” Ferrell said.
Police Safety Director Alan Hill with the Oakwood Public Safety Department said it is important for parents to keep an open and effective line of communications with their kids when it comes to illciit drug use or smoking and vaping.
“There is an intervention part in the communications piece that doesn’t always take place,” Hill said. “When you see something that is not right, then you confront them on it.”
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