OHS joins campaign against vaping epidemic


This story was originally published in the fourth edition of The Lion’s Tale (February 7, 2020).

Last December, the Seminole County Public School Board voted to pursue an anti-vaping lawsuit along with other school districts in the state to sue electronic cigarette company JUUL.

The lawsuit claims that the company’s products have led to an epidemic among students, raising fears that the e-cigarettes pose dangerous threats to student health and cause disciplinary problems on campuses.

At Oviedo High School, several key steps have been taken this school year to combat the growing popularity of vaping. In October, Florida Attorney General Ashley Moody came to OHS to announce that her office would be investigating more than 20 companies to look at how they are marketing and selling electronic cigarettes to teenagers.

According to Moody, one in four high schoolers have tried vaping, even though it is illegal in Florida to sell these products to anyone under the age of 18.

OHS was chosen for the press conference because of its extensive anti-vaping campaign, which includes posters, commercials on the WROR-TV program, and an 8-minute video campaign shown through social studies classes.

Jason Maitland, the OHS disciplinary dean, said he would describe the current epidemic as “unsurprising.” Having grown up with the prevalence of cigarettes and tobacco in the hands of students, he said he’s familiar with the type of targeted advertising these companies are using to hook students. He said he hopes with the new public awareness about the dangers of the product, these vaping companies will start to change their marketing strategies.

“You’ll start to see the advertising and the marketing going away,” Maitland said. “You have already seen companies taking…those flavored options off the shelves and just going with the traditional ones.”

According to Seminole County policy, all district campuses and facilities are tobacco and vape-free environments.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has called vaping a “public health epidemic,” as adolescent brains are particularly susceptible to damage from nicotine found in vaping products. With teenager-friendly flavors like bubble gum and mint, these products quickly grew in popularity both on and off high school campuses.

Dr Trent Daniel, OHS principal, said she’s seen the popularity of these products with students at OHS.

“It’s still at its peak,” she said, referring to vaping’s popularity. “I just think students are better at hiding it now and keeping it off campus.”

She says from a disciplinary standpoint, it can be difficult to catch students in the act.

“It’s difficult to monitor because it’s easy to use,” Daniel said. “You can hide it easily and use it. It’s a lot different than smoking.”

At OHS, anyone caught vaping on campus must take a vaping and tobacco education course. Administrators said they are hopeful that with their campaign efforts and more public awareness, students will start to see the real dangers of these products and think twice before using them.