If you are the parent of a teenager, you have most likely heard about teens’ rampant use of vaping. Kids are inhaling on the bus, juuling at school, and secretly storing their stashes right under their parents’ noses.

This week, one Colorado high school is making headlines for taking action against the growing epidemic—and it’s a hard line our kids desperately need to see taken. 

Crowley County High School in Ordway, Colorado announced on Facebook Thursday its volleyball team would be forfeiting a scheduled match that night because of “team issues regarding widespread vaping and other school infractions”. CCHS cited its student handbook in the decision, saying it did not make the decision lightly, but rules had to be followed. 

And as a mom of teens, I’ve seen news of vaping and the serious dangers it presents to our kids on the rise, so I’m giving all the props to CCHS for taking this stand. While some may prefer to turn a blind eye to rules infractions when it comes to athletics, the school chose to send a message to its students—and parents—about the seriousness of the behavior. 

Way. To. Go.

Vaping is a growing epidemic amongst our children, teetering on epic proportions. According to the National Institute on Drug Abuse vape usage has been increasing exponentially year over year.

More than 37 percent of 12th graders reporting vaping in the past 12 months in 2018 as compared to 27 percent in 2017. 

Vaping is the use of an electronic device to ingest nicotine without the smoke and tar that comes from burning tobacco. The e-cigarettes come in a host of slick designs, some as small as a portable USB drive. This enables underage users to easily palm the devices or even keep it out in the open without parental eyes even knowing what it is. The most brazen of teens are taking a hit off them while their teachers aren’t looking or even in the hallways at school.

Vaping was originally marketed as a safer alternative to cigarettes, and a way for smokers to wean themselves off of the product. Seeing a tremendous market opportunity, vaping product companies started offering products in tasty flavors, such as mint, mango, and vanilla crème. 

As with all things too good to be true, a mysterious lung disease linked to inhaling vapor has killed six people and caused several hundred more to become ill and suffer respiratory damage. Most teens love the flavors and do not understand the products still contain dangerous levels of nicotine. Some Juul cartridges contain the same amount of nicotine as a carton of cigarettes.

Middle and high schools across the country have seen the vaping epidemic coming and are trying to address it through aggressive education.

My three teen daughters learned about vaping three years ago during health class in middle school, and their high school has a zero-tolerance policy. For athletes, if they get caught using e-cigarettes, even on social media, they will be suspended from their team.

As CCHS underscored this week, it doesn’t matter how many games our kids win or what grades they earn if they are too sick—or worse, are not alive—to enjoy those achievements. The dangers associated with vaping are legit and deserve our attention and action.

Until federal regulations catch up with the pace of vaping, we need to take a stand for our kids, and unfortunately, that means hitting them where it hurts. While it is unfortunate for those students who did not partake, a team has to abide by the rules together.

Parents, talk to your kids about this pervasive issue. Start young and keep the conversations going.

For more information, visit https://www.tobaccofreeco.org/know-the-facts/

Whitney Fleming

Whitney is a mom of three teen daughters, a communications consultant, and blogger. She tries to dispel the myth of being a typical suburban mom although she is often driving her minivan to soccer practices and attending PTA meetings. She writes about parenting, relationships, and w(h)ine on her blog Playdates on Fridays.