BREVARD COUNTY — You know there’s an issue with vaping among today’s youth when even teenagers are lobbying for bills to be passed that make it harder to be obtained.
In late January, 15 of Brevard Public School’s student government leaders traveled to Tallahassee in support of State Senator Debbie Mayfield’s (R- Dist. 17) Senate Bill 694, which pushes for greater restrictions on electronic smoking devices and tobacco products.
“We were petitioning to ban flavored substances to anyone under 18; now it’s 21, of course, with the federal bill,” said Henry Bae, a junior at Eau Gallie High School, and president of the Students Working Against Tobacco (SWAT) club.
“We read the bill, prepared questions and things we’re doing in the schools, and what we need from the legislatures to make sure that the school community is not affected by the vaping epidemic,” Henry added.
Students arranged to meet at 3 a.m. in Viera before traveling with chaperones to Tallahassee. They met with several legislators, such as Rep. Tyler Sirois (R- 51) and Rep. Bryon Donald (R – Dist. 80), and departed for Brevard later in the evening.
According to Henry, he felt a lot of the senators and representatives were in line with the opinions of the student government leaders.
“A lot of them did not realize what we were doing in the school community, and they have a better perspective of what the students are experiencing personally,” Henry explained. “A lot of representatives supported us and gave more information on what they’re trying to do. We were very happy about what we were able to accomplish in that short period of time. We were able to persuade many people and give them a new insight.”
E-cigarettes have become a popular habit among teenagers in middle and high schools across the nation, in large part due to the liquid flavors it comes in, such as fruits and candy.
The term “vaping” comes from the use of an electronic nicotine delivery system or device (ENDS) to inhale a liquid into their system. This is not an approved FDA tobacco cessation method, according to the Brevard Tobacco Initiative.
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) website, nicotine is highly addictive and can harm adolescent brain development.
Furthermore, the CDC website states that the aerosol e-cigarette users breathe in and out from a device can contain harmful substances, such as diacetyl, a flavoring chemical that has been linked to lung disease; heavy metals such as nickel, tin and lead; and more.
“Vaping is a very big epidemic that started a few years ago,” Henry said. “It really became a common issue in the 2018-19 school year. The rate of suspensions and expulsions in the school district increased 500%. In the U.S., more than 20% of people are smoking in high schools. We did an estimate as a student government in our school and we saw that number a lot higher.”
Vaping has become a big trend within the past few years, and peer pressure among students has made its impact, according to Henry.
“It became a cultural phenomenon and that’s where the real problem originated from,” Henry said. “Legislations are obviously important but getting rid of that cultural viewpoint of saying that vaping is a cool product is something we have to pay attention to.”
The Brevard SWAT was founded in February 2019, and members actively spread awareness throughout school campuses about the harm vaping does to one’s lungs. The group also hosts presentations and creates flyers.
For more information, visit www.swatflorida.com.