Dana Portillo, RNC, BA School Health Coordinator for Monroe County Department of Health, joined Good Morning Keys on KeysTalk 96.9/102.5FM this morning to talk about vaping.
Portillo said, “We do know vaping is an issue in the community. Each year, there’s a survey that’s given to teens who are 11 to 17 in the county, actually throughout the state, but you’re able to write down the information by county. So for our county last year, we learned that almost 63 percent of kids have tried a vape with nicotine, slightly more girls and boys. A little over 33 percent who vape have tried marijuana oil, and 11.4 percent have used an e-cigarette in the last 30 days.”
Why would girls be more likely to try a vape than boys?
Portillo said, “What I always wonder about these surveys, just being honest, I haven’t taken the survey because I’m not a teenager, what I always wonder is how good the reporting is because reports of any kind are only as good as the information that they receive. So these kids, it’s anonymous, but the kids also have to really self-report what they do. So I’m always wondering about the numbers. I’m like, well, it’s amazing that this many people reported it. Are their kids who also report that don’t do it and are there kids who don’t report that actually do? So I’m always just kind of curious. But when we look at the statistics, it does show that slightly more girls do it than boys.”
All the information can be found at www.flhealthcharts.gov
Portillo added, “One other statistic was that almost 50 percent of the kids feel that it reduces stress. So that’s also something that you can find in this. We do know that it’s just the opposite, it usually increases stress but might make you feel a bit better at the time and then kind of doesn’t make you feel better later.”
Vaping is not a good idea for a number of reasons.
Portillo said, “One of the things leading up to that is kind of looking at our current beliefs about its safety. Initially, people thought it was so much safer than smoking cigarettes, and to a certain degree, it probably is safer, but it’s still not safe. We have seen the effects that it can have, whether it’s nicotine or some other drugs, or even just the flavored liquid that doesn’t have the nicotine or drug in it, but it still causes problems when it’s heated. So it can do permanent damage to your lungs, kind of called popcorn lung, which is not a good thing. Sometimes you get some of these damages that are irreversible. We also know that a lot of these drugs, nicotine, can do damage to your brain that’s still developing because most kids have a brain that’s developing until they’re at least in their mid 20s. So if you’re a teenager, and you’re experimenting, or you’re doing things that really aren’t that smart, it can have lasting effects and no teenager’s worried about their future because we’re all young and invincible and think we know all the answers to everything in the world. And we are clearly wrong.”
How can parents and adults talk with teens about vaping?
Portillo suggested, “One of the reasons that we develop this video, it was made by the health department, in conjunction with and for local teens, with the proposed audience of being Monroe County School District students. Middle school was our initial goal. What we wanted to do was educate about all the issues, but also find out some of the questions that maybe need to be addressed. So it was a perfect opportunity to work with these teens to find out what do you know and where do you get your information? What do you do about peer pressure? How have you been able to resist those things? What are side effects or problems that you’ve observed about people who use this? Would you know where to go to find information to stop? So these are all things that we included in this video that I’m very, very proud of that is being released to the schools and in fact, it’s going to be given to sixth through 12th graders. So it’s not just the middle school audience anymore. It was a good message. It was succinct. It was an opportunity to educate without preaching at people. But I think it’s also a great thing for families to click on this link that we have through the Florida Department of Health so that they can have these conversations with the kids, maybe learn a few things themselves and learn that it is not completely innocent, that there are risks, that it can lead to other problems, that it can be absorbed through the skin because the particles are so small. There’s a lot to really learn and to have conversations with kids and hopefully have those conversations before you feel that you need to. It’s happening younger and younger.”
It’s a 20 minute video.
Portillo said, “We do know that for middle school kids, their attention spans are shorter. They’re going to look at rolling it out into two separate days. High school, I’m not sure how they’re going to do it. But there’s so many moving parts within a school as far as testing and other things going on that they have to find the best way, but they will show it in the classroom.”
It was inspired by a request from a school nurse.
Portillo said, “I would say about two years ago, I was part of a panel who went to Sigsbee to have a conversation with their middle school students about vaping. It was a great, four people panel with all of these kids to do a presentation to also ask questions, to answer the questions that the kids asked. It was a great thing. Then after a conversation from that, a couple nurses said, would you mind coming to do a presentation at the school? Well, that sounds great until you think of how many schools that we have, how do you go ahead and coordinate it? If you can put something in a video that has the same message, the correct message that includes all the components that you want to include, it makes sense to do that, and then release it. Then in talks with the school district who also has the same goal to educate these students, it just seemed like a win win situation.”
Portillo said, “The main sources that we have are actually about getting help to stop. For teens, and these aren’t local to Monroe, these are available to everyone all throughout the US. But they can text ditch vape to 88709 or they can text start my quit to 36072. They can also reach out to school nurses, to guidance counselors, medical providers, I mean, we will all do our best to help them in any way possible.”
The intended audience was for the middle school.
Portillo pointed out, “There were four teen girls that are local who agreed to be seen and heard for this middle school audience. I understand not wanting to do that for your peers. So what I was impressed by was the level of conversation that they had, the input that they had, the honest feedback to questions that we had. It was great. It was just very enlightening. I liked it a lot. The school liked it and wanted to also do it for high school. Well, we had already promised that they wouldn’t be seen. So we tried to come up with how can we use the same video, honor their wishes, so we went to a plan B. So this is the high school version that we have been cleared to share with everyone and that’s the one that is posted on the website. But I’m very proud of that. I’m proud of the collaboration. I’m proud of all the things that we addressed as a way to educate and hopefully get these kids to think and have conversations.”
Sometimes messages from peers can be quite powerful.
Portillo said, “One of the questions I asked was, what suggestions would you have for adults or parents who could possibly make a decision to keep people from starting? One of those girls had said, try to reach them through their peers, because they’re more likely to listen to their peers. One other thing that was said, and I don’t remember what the question was to prompt it, but one of my favorite lines from the whole thing was, do it for yourself, do it for those who look up to you. I thought, that is just a great way to live your life, but also to make sure that you are doing good things for your community, for the kids who do look up to you to make good and healthy choices. That’s really what we’re wanting people to do.”