Program to warn of vaping, other social dangers

SALEM — Parents, the public and anyone interested in learning about the dangers of vaping, Internet safety, human trafficking and drugs can attend a free, informative event from 6 to 7:30 p.m. March 4 at the Salem High School auditorium.

“We want to be proactive,” School Resource Officer Rich Miller of the Salem Police Department said.

He stressed the whole idea is to educate parents, grandparents and guardians and even teens themselves and really anyone from Salem and surrounding communities about the vaping issue. As far as he and school officials know, they haven’t had any students experience some of the serious health consequences other young people have been facing across the country from vaping.

That’s why he’s calling this a proactive event — a chance to reach out to the community about the dangers of vaping and other serious issues.

Miller, who’s in his second year as the SRO for Salem City Schools, approached Superintendent Sean Kirkland about the idea and Kirkland was all for it. When asked if Salem had a vaping issue, Kirkland said “society has an issue with vaping.”

School officials have caught students with vaping devices and Salem Police Chief J.T. Panezott said every school in the area is catching kids with vaping devices.

Miller explained that a device for vaping, also known as an e-cigarette, can look like a pen or could be as small as a flash drive storage device. The vape juice is placed in the vape device and the vapors are inhaled. Panezott said some of the vape material could include THC, the chemical that creates the high in marijuana, but at much higher levels. The vape material could also contain fentanyl, a highly addictive opioid which is much more potent than heroin.

“Parents don’t know their kids are doing it because they can hide it so easily,” Kirkland said.

As part of the program, Salem physician Dr. Mike Sevilla will speak about the problems of vaping among kids and other health issues. The Centers for Disease Control, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration, state and local health departments have been investigating a national outbreak of lung injuries related to use of e-cigarettes and vape products, including keeping track of hospitalizations and deaths.

According to the CDC website, “as of Feb 4, 2020, a total of 2,758 hospitalized e-cigarette, or vaping, product use-associated lung injury (EVALI) cases or deaths have been reported to CDC from 50 states, the District of Columbia, and two U.S. territories (Puerto Rico and U.S. Virgin Islands). Sixty-four deaths have been confirmed in 28 states and the District of Columbia (as of Feb. 4, 2020).” Ages of those affected ranged from 15 to 85.

Also part of the program, agents from the Columbiana County Drug Task Force will have a display and talk about what they’re seeing in the area. Agents from the Ohio Investigative Unit and the Ohio Attorney General’s Office will talk about Internet safety and human trafficking, which is an issue in Ohio.

“This comes down to valuing the health and safety of our students,” Salem High School Principal Todd McLaughlin said.

Both the police department and the school district officials are hoping for a good turnout, with Panezott stressing the event is a “great opportunity for people to get educated.”

Miller said vaping is an epidemic across the country. Everybody’s doing it and it has no lines – people from all walks of life and economic means are doing it. He invites anyone from any community to attend the event. Panezott said this is the next step in Miller’s progression as an SRO because it’s about education as much as it’s about communicating with the students and keeping an eye on the schools.

Kirkland said this type of program is badly needed.

“I don’t think all our parents are as educated as they need to be about vaping,” he said.

In October 2019, the law changed and now requires anyone buying cigarettes or any tobacco or vaping products and equipment to be 21 years old.

Visit www.cdc.gov to learn more about the vaping issue and national outbreak of lung injuries associating with e-cigarettes and vaping.