By Zoe Cate, Online Editor-in-Chief
// The school district has applied for a $1 million grant to combat student vaping by hiring nicotine addiction specialists and installing vape detectors and surveillance cameras.
Vaping has been a hot topic recently, nationally as well as locally. On Sep. 13, President Donald Trump proposed an end to flavored tobacco pods used in vaping devices. A number of bay area cities including San Francisco, Livermore, Richmond, and Lafayette have moved towards banning flavored E-cigarette products. Six young adults with a median age of 19 have died due to vaping related illness. Subsequently, on Sep. 5 Lafayette police investigated a non-student suspect at Acalanes for attempting to sell a vaping device to a student.
The grant application by the Acalanes Union High School District (AUHSD) consists of two components: detection and education.
“What we wrote the grant for is vaping detectors for the bathrooms because that is where you see it all the time. The big thing that we wrote in for is nicotine addiction specialists, people to develop parent info nights, someone to work with the nurses to develop HSD classes, coordinate a vaping academy, where kids go if they get caught vaping, talking to kids about nicotine use and what it does to your brain,” Amy McNamara AUHSD Associate Superintendent said. “I feel like some of it is awareness of people don’t feel like nicotine is physically harmful to you. So it’s more on the intervention and education side then it was for the detection. We also wrote for security cameras.”
The need for this grant came to AUHSD’s attention when Contra Costa County informed McNamara of the high E-cigarette use rates of AUHSD students. According to the California Healthy Kids Survey, 38 percent of AUHSD students have reported the use of E-cigarettes.
“The county called me and said, ‘you know your use rates are really high, they are the highest in contra costa county,’” McNamara said. “You only look at your own data, you never really know how you compare to the neighboring districts and I was shocked. So, that started us like, ‘oh my god we have a lot to do.’”
The vape detectors are built to recognize the chemicals that E-cigarettes produce. When the detector senses this, an alert will be sent to the Associate Principles, the Principal, and the Campus Supervisor.
Even with these measures, a question arises: what will happen if the students vaping leave before school staff can come?
The AUHSD plans on installing surveillance cameras outside the bathrooms to make sure that if students leave the bathroom before they are caught vaping, the administration can still track down who was in the bathroom at that time.
Although the detectors are a significant part of the grant, the majority of the money would be going to nicotine addiction counselors. McNamara believes that by investing in people, AUHSD students have the opportunity to break addiction in a way that will last.
“The bulk of the money is in people for student education and things like good curriculum for the health class to try to attack it from a couple different fronts. Whatever we can do to educate kids around the health risks of what it does to your brain, both nicotine, and marijuana,” McNamara said. “At an early age, try to get kids to think twice about it and certainly reduce use on campus. We can only control what happens in our school during the day but I would hope that with education, we can help control the choices that kids make outside of school too.”
The district will find out if they got the grant by the end of the month. If obtained, vaping detectors and counselors will be brought in by November and the community would be informed prior to these changes.
“When it comes to vaping detectors, you don’t spring things on kids, I think we would do messaging to the parents and the kids about when the vaping detectors would be put in and such,” McNamara said.
Although vaping is a relatively new past time, the strategies that E-cigarette companies are using have been seen before. McNamara wants students to be aware of the role they are playing in these corporations’ schemes.
“You’re being played with by a multi-billion dollar company that marketed its products to you for children knowing how addictive this substance is is to me just so appalling,” McNamara said. “I hate big tobacco companies and Juul got right in bed with them and followed their strategy and it’s the exact same playbook they used many years ago to my generation with kids and cigarettes. It’s really sad that you see this happen again, it’s just a new technology, it’s the same poison.”