FORT WAYNE, Ind. (WANE) — Third graders vaping? That’s what educational professionals in Fort Wayne say they have found.
Kids are finding vapes, also known as e-cigarettes, on playgrounds, around their friends or lying around at home, according to McMillen Health.
In a meeting last year, educators asked the nonprofit to help them combat the growing trend away from cigarettes to vapes. The program “Cloud of Concern 3.0, 4.0 and 5.0” is aimed at 3rd to 5th graders who think vaping is cool when they see older kids puffing, blowing rings or producing clouds of smoke.
McMillen Health shared statistics, saying vapes typically pack the equivalent of 40 cigarettes in a cartridge that costs around $15 to start. Kids may think the vapes, which come in flavors like strawberry, cool mint and cotton candy, look cool, but they often contain more toxic chemicals than you find in rat poison or tire cleaner. Those chemicals include benzene, manganese and arsenic, to name a few.
Plus the electronic component powers the nicotine deeper into the lungs.
“Actually, there’s a misconception that vaping is better than cigarettes, but it’s much more detrimental. If parents are vaping, if they believe the misconception that vaping is better than cigarettes, it’s easier for the child to take that item, or even just getting a few puffs when nobody is looking,” said Sabrina Marquez-Straessle, McMillen Health marketing director.
And if users buy illegal vapes, they might contain other more potent and harmful street drugs like marijuana and fentanyl. Even the dealer might not know what’s in the vape they’re selling, Marquez-Straessle said.
McMillen announced its anti-vaping campaign as part of Giving Tuesday to raise $20,000 to get their programs into school in the spring.
“Our hope is to continue to expand, reach schools that are out of state. We don’t want this to become normalized,” Marquez-Straessle said.
Schoolchildren visit McMillen Health off Hanna Street for programs or the programs go to the schools, sometimes through video. To make it relevant to children, they are taught the dangers through characters assigned to the chemicals called “the chemical crew.”
“We give the chemicals voices and a character so they can explain to the students how harmful they are,” Marquez-Straessle said.
McMillen sees vaping as a popular trend with high schoolers, and “younger siblings seeing it as normal and a way to deal with stress.”
Dealing with stress is part of the programs.
“Elementary kids need help managing their emotions, so we teach kids what emotions are, how to name emotions and then techniques to tame their emotions. Enter the ‘mood monsters.’”
Learn more about the Anti-Vaping Campaign on the website.