State leader partners with ACS to curb teen vaping
By: Dr. Denita Dowell-Reavis
Chief Communications Officer
Alexander County Schools
The North Carolina Attorney General is teaming up with Alexander County Schools to fight teenage vaping. Attorney General Josh Stein says he learned more about the prevalence of teen vaping from a letter from Superintendent Dr. Jennifer Hefner and the Alexander County Board of Education sent in December.
The letter from Dr. Hefner said tactics used by the companies to disguise vapes are “insidious.” She asked Stein to use his authority as attorney general to go after the companies that market vapes to students.
Stein says in the response to Hefner, “We still have a long way to go, but I’ll keep fighting to prevent another generation of young people from becoming addicted to nicotine and vapor products. As an educator, you have a front-row seat to the way this problem is impacting our kids, and I welcome the opportunity to stay in touch with you and learn from your experiences.”
Dr. Hefner received the letter from Stein February 1st.
“I was so pleased to receive the Attorney General’s response to my letter and look forward to working with him and his team to tackle this serious problem. Research continues to prove there are very serious health impacts linked to teen vaping, and I am dedicated to protecting our children and their futures,” says Hefner.
Stein’s office successfully sued JUUL, a vape company, for creating enticing flavors for the vape cartridges. The courts ordered JUUL to change business practices nationwide. The decision also ruled JUUL should pay North Carolina nearly $50 million dollars and change the way it does business.
An Alexander County agency working at the local level against drugs and addiction is thrilled about the partnership between Stein and the school system.
“I think it would be a great opportunity. There’s an idea that two influences combined would make a great impact,” says Alexander County PORT/Community Paramedic Shannon Childers. PORT is the Post-Overdose Response Team the county established late last year.
Childers called teen vaping a terrible problem and worries about where it can lead.
“Tobacco is always a gateway to marijuana. The idea of vaping was very easily transformed to marijuana vapes. Almost 100% of the time, vaping has a progression to methamphetamines and to fentanyl,” says Childers.
“The more people we put around the table, the better the opportunity we have to overcome this problem,” maintains Childers.
He adds, “I appreciate what Dr. Hefner and Alexander County Schools is doing to lead this charge. We’ve got to do what we’ve got to do to get this problem taken care of.”
Beyond Dr. Hefner’s letter calling on help, the district released a series of public service announcements from Alexander Central High School principal, Jacob Lail. In the videos, Lail asked parents, students, and the community to help curb the problem.
Lail says he’s grateful for the work with state and local leaders.
“I want to thank Attorney General Stein for his response to Dr. Hefner's request for assistance addressing the escalating issue of students gaining access to vapes. It is clear Mr. Stein, Dr. Hefner, and the Alexander County School Board members are committed to the well-being and safety of our students. I look forward to working with all to address the challenges posed by vape use among students.”
Stein is also calling on the USFDA (Food and Drug Administration) to get more involved in regulating vaping and electronic cigarettes.
The most current North Carolina data shows 23.8 percent of high school-aged students are currently using a “vapor product.” At middle school statewide, 7.7% of young adults said they were currently vaping. The 2021 revelations are part of the Youth Risk Behavior Survey conducted every other year in North Carolina.