ASCENSION PARISH, La. (WVLA/WGMB) — In a Louisiana parish where a vape smoker died last month, public school leaders hope to halt a trend rising among students.
St. Amant High School has begun holding advisory lessons on the health risks of vaping. School administrators say students caught get detention, sometimes suspension — and in all cases, distraction.
“Students are focusing on these types of behaviors instead of being in classrooms, learning and working on what they need to do to prepare for their futures,” assistant principal Angela Boudreaux said.
School vaping among the state’s secondary students has spiked more than threefold in four years, according to the Louisiana Campaign for Tobacco-Free Living. In 2015, 4.8% of middle school students and 9.1% of high school students used vaping devices; the statistic rose to include 15.4% of middle schoolers and 31.6% of high schoolers in 2019.
“They see celebrities do them, they see their peers do it, they see social media influencers do it,” said Kenyatta Royal, the Louisiana Campaign for Tobacco-Free Living’s youth engagement coordinator.
Ascension Parish school administrators say curbing the trend also requires stakeholders beyond the classroom. The district teamed with Our Lady of the Lake Medical Center and the parish sheriff’s office to host a family awareness night last month.
“It’s not a battle that we can fight just at school,” Boudreaux said. “Kids need to be talking to their parents, talking to other caring adults in their lives. We need everybody to chime in and help us.”
The school district plans to hold another public meeting on vaping in January.
Ascension Parish isn’t Louisiana’s only place where medical examiners have blamed vaping for someone’s death. Union Parish also saw a similar circumstance last month.
Louisiana health officials claim vaping has also caused 32 illnesses statewide in 2019.
Nationwide, examiners cite vaping in more than 2,200 illnesses and 47 deaths.
Juul, which the Louisiana Campaign for Tobacco-Free Living considers the most popular vapor brand among the state’s high schoolers, did not return BRProud.com’s request for comment. Company representatives have long maintained their product is not for youth.