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More Utah kids are vaping and Utah schools are trying to keep up

(Photo credit: Getty Images)

SALT LAKE CITY — Utah school administrators say teachers need to expand their audience when discussing vaping and e-cigarettes. Specifically, the conversation needs to include younger students.

This admonition comes amid new information about the use of e-cigarettes and vaping, both nationally and locally.

Younger kids need to know

Nationally, one in four high school students and one in five sophomores report using e-cigarettes this year. To fight these numbers, Utah School and Student Safety Specialist Rhett Larsen says younger students need to know more about vaping.

“We’re looking at adding vaping and e-cigarettes as a curriculum component,” said Larsen, “and expand [the] content to the elementary school level. And so really to expand substance abuse prevention to the elementary [level].”

The numbers mirror the educators’ concerns. The Utah State Board of Education says that, in 2017, 12.4% of Utah students in 8th grade reported they’d tried vaping.

Products that help hide vaping

Along with an update on the number of students who are vaping, educators in Utah are also learning how students hide their vaping. Larsen says hats, hoodies, shoes, pens and watches all designed to hide vaping implements.  Larsen says Utah teachers and faculty must become familiar with these products and how they are used by students.

Another way students are hiding their vaping involves where, on school grounds, the vaping is happening.  Larsen says some kids are vaping in the bathrooms, just like the old song says.  Larsen says hall monitors and other students should be aware of the Safe UT app, and use it to report vaping.

Flavored and scented vaping products spell trouble for teachers

One of the distinguishing features of vaping that has garnered national attention is the wide variety of flavors and scents that are available.  This compounds the problem for teachers and others trying to keep their eyes out for underage vaping.

“Even the smell … like fruit, or other fragrances like that, it can be hard to identify,” said Larsen. “‘Is that perfume, or is that e-juice that’s just been vaped?” This particularly negative aspect of vaping may be addressed as more states ban flavored e-cigarettes.