By Michelle Moskowitz
Last week, the Sentinel ran a feature titled, “Addressing the Teen Vaping Epidemic in Greenwich,” following the Greenwich High School PTA panel on the pervasiveness and subsequent dangers of vaping among Greenwich youth.
The highly-attended forum, as well as the story, have sparked growing concern and fostered much-needed discussion among parents, teens, and the community about the importance of awareness, education, and taking critical steps to eradicate this systemic issue among youth.
Vaping is the act on inhaling and exhaling aerosol or vapor produced by an Electronic Nicotine Delivery Systems (ENDS) known as e-cigs, e-hookahs, mods, vape pens, vapes or tank systems.
This week, the Sentinel reached out to Kyle Silver, long time Executive Director of Arch Street: The Greenwich Teen Center, to get his perspective on the vaping crisis and inquire as to what measures can be taken to curb this hazardous habit.
GS: As Executive Director of Arch Street, what is your take on the vaping issue among Greenwich youth? Are you seeing a lot of kids “Juuling” as is being reported in Greenwich schools (referring to the most popular e-cigarette on the market, the Juul, where one pod contains 59mg/ml of nicotine, equivalent to a pack of cigarettes)?
KS: The Greenwich Teen Center has a zero-vaping tolerance. Here at Arch Street, we do not see teens “Juuling” as they are aware of our code of conduct.
GS: Since the beginning of your tenure at Arch Street, have you seen anything that has consumed teen culture such as vaping and if not, why do you think it has become so pervasive?
KS: There has always been a battle with youth prevention in exposure to drugs and alcohol. The pervasive elements within vaping is fueled by it being in the early stages of its own harmful evolution. Technology and accessibility are another negative contributor to the vaping scene.
GS: What are some of the reasons that kids are vaping today — what is the draw?
KS: When electronic cigarettes were first introduced and distributed, they looked like a cigarette. The JUUL does not look like a cigarette, it looks like a USB, and just like a USB, it can be plugged in and charged through a computer. The draw comes from the distraction that the design has when comparing a JUUL to other electronic cigarettes. It is a nicotine delivery device in disguise.
GS: What resources are available for both parents and kids who are struggling with addiction to vaping (in particular to nicotine, a highly addictive substance) and need help?
KS: Dennis Bludnicki, (a youth counselor with Liberation Programs who is stationed full time at GHS) has been a long-time friend of mine and is an expert with anybody struggling with addiction or if anyone knows of someone that might need help.
GS: It has been reported that kids are purchasing vaping devices and pods online, through friends, or at gas stations and convenience stores. What steps can be taken to keep these devices away from kids, considering the legal age of purchase is 18 years old?
KS: Educating those who are in the position to prevent scenarios like those is the first big step needed. There is a lack of education amongst our youth in the field of vaping. It is crucial to address these harmful products and the negative impact it has on health to those who are vaping and to those who are not.
GS: Can you share with our readers both a good and poor outcome of a student who had been vaping and tried to stop? Walk us through that path.
KS: There is only a good outcome for a student who is trying to stop vaping. The process of overcoming addiction can vary depending on the severity of the case. It is imperative to react quickly to those seeking recovery.
GS: What advice can you give to kids who have not yet vaped, but may be considering it due to peer pressure?
KS: Vaping is a newly disguised method of nicotine intake amongst youth. It is highly addictive, and addiction can be avoided with the elimination of exposure.
GS: What is the most dangerous thing about vaping that kids and parents should know? Do you think kids know about the ‘popcorn lung’ caused by diacetyl that enhances some of the flavors used in e-cigarettes that the Sentinel reported last week?
KS: The most dangerous aspect of vaping is the misconception that it is not harmful. Nicotine is a drug and one can suffer from nicotine poisoning, even overdose from it.
GS: If parents and kids reading this article can take away just one message, what would it be?
KS: Make time for the conversation. If you are a parent or a student, make an effort to stay educated and educate those around you. Encourage others to do the right thing. Stand up and let your voice be heard. If you see something, say something. It is vital that we use the resources and knowledge available to spread awareness and promote healthy and safe youth development.
Arch Street, The Greenwich Teen Center is dedicated to providing teens with a safe environment to connect and socialize with their peers and is the longest-running, privately funded teen center in the country.
Download the free guide: “Vaping Guide for Parents: What You Need to Know and How to Talk with Your Kids” at Drugfree.org.
Visit Archstreet.org for more information.