DERRY — Pinkerton Academy students gave some personal views on how to keep youth safe and aware of the dangers of vaping during a roundtable discussion Friday morning at the Derry high school.
Students were joined by U.S. Sen. Jeanne Shaheen, D-N.H., Pinkerton Headmaster Timothy Powers, Kim Coronis, policy and program manager with Breathe New Hampshire, and Dr. Marc Grossman, emergency medical director at Parkland Medical Center.
Vaping, also known as "e-cigarettes," "mods," or "vapes," is now being marketed to younger users, and often taking the shape of everyday items like pens, USB memory sticks, medical inhalers or lipstick.
With hundreds of styles of vaping devices and flavors of liquid, it's often an attractive alternative to smoking with young people.
And statistics say the popularity is growing.
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, e-cigarette use among high school students rose from 1.5% in 2011 to 27.5% in 2019.
Shaheen said the numbers are rising drastically. And there is little research or answers right now as to what any dangerous effects might be on younger users, she added.
"In 2011, it was about one in 100 involved in vaping, now it's one in four," the senator said. "It's a huge challenge."
She said she wanted to sit down with the Pinkerton students to hear their opinions on vaping, what they are seeing and what any solutions from their viewpoint might be.
"It's helpful for me to be here for all of you," Shaheen said. "What do you all see, do you have friends who vape?"
Students spoke out readily about what they are seeing, and how they think vaping problems could be tackled.
For Eve Hodgdon, a Pinkerton senior from Auburn, it's about stressing education among peers, when messages may be more accepted coming from other students.
Pinkerton was also honoring Red Ribbon Week during Shaheen's visit, with additional efforts in place to bring awareness to not only vaping, but other substance misuse.
"It's definitely a challenge," Hodgdon said about vaping. "So many kids do it and don't necessarily see what's it's doing, until it happens to you. And kids who do know what they are doing, it's hard to change."
Students need to support each other, Hodgdon said.
"We have to educate peers to help themselves, help their friends," she said. "When teens talk to other teens they are more receptive."
Some students said they know other students that don't always feel vaping is dangerous, often not as bad as regular smoking.
And buying the products can be easy, students said, if they have older siblings or friends legally old enough to make the purchase.
Coronis said Breathe New Hampshire is working to bring awareness programs into middle and high schools to spread information about the dangers of vaping. Other programs offer confidential, free coaching services for teens.
"It's kind of a new thing on how to treat young people," she said. "It's a whole new thing to be investigating — brains and lungs are still developing."
At the federal level, Shaheen said she has pressed the Food and Drug Administration to remove the popular flavored vaping products from the market and also introduced the E-Cigarette Youth Protection Act, aimed at requiring e-cigarette companies to help fund federal prevention efforts and the enforcement of regulations.
But being on the ground in New Hampshire and hearing students' views on vaping and what they see happening around them is meaningful, she said.
"It makes much more of an impact," Shaheen said.