Recap by Lucy Edmunds, PMHS Sophomore
On Monday January 14th, Dr. Richard Stumacher, a pulmonologist at Northern Westchester Hospital, came to speak to nearly 100 Pelham parents about the vaping epidemic among teens. The assembly was geared towards parents of both middle and high school students. Dr. Stumacher began these presentations in schools when he learned first-hand of the vaping epidemic hitting high schools and middle schools alike.
The assembly allowed parents and students to learn more about what vaping is, its effects on the brain compared to cigarettes, what signs of vaping parents may see in their child, and how to approach your kids if you suspect them of using e-cigarettes. A significant element of Dr. Schumacher’s presentation was the passing around of different vaping devices and products. This allowed parents to get a closer look, so that they could keep an eye out for these items.
His presentation began with going over the advertising strategies that companies such as JUUL™ use to target teens. The company began in 2015, and was originally depicted as a gradual strategy to quit smoking cigarettes. Many articles claim that JUUL™ is 95% safer to use than a regular cigarette. However, studies show that a teen using a vape is four times more likely to convert to generic cigarettes. JUUL™’s products are arguably targeted at teens. JUUL has come out with flavored pods in flavors such as mango, cucumber, creme (previously known as creme brûlée), and fruit. Dr. Stumacher argues that a person who is attempting to quit cigarettes wouldn’t have a preference whether they are inhaling mango or crème, and therefore the use of flavors is most certainly designed to appeal to young people. In an attempt to curb this epidemic, Westchester County has raised the age from 18 to 21 to be able to purchase JUUL™ products.
The addictive element in cigs, nicotine, is also found in vape products. Nicotine is a neurotransmitter that activates the brain to produce more dopamine. This makes nicotine highly addictive, especially among teenagers when the brain is more susceptible to addiction. Nicotine is known to be more addictive than crack cocaine and heroin. One JUUL™ pod contains just as much nicotine as a pack of cigarettes, and one pod lasts for 100-200 ‘hits.’ It is not uncommon for regular vapers to go through one or more pods a day. Adults can easily become hooked on nicotine; people under the age of 18 are eighty percent more likely to become hooked.
Some adolescents might argue, “What’s the problem if I’m only inhaling vapor?” The truth is that while it may be too early in the life of these products for scientists to know the long-term effects of vaping from 30-year studies, there is proof that the chemicals in the vaping pods contain chemical additives that are dangerous to the lungs. While some of these additives are F.D.A. approved to consume in food, that does not mean they are safe for the lungs. As Dr. Schumacher says, “the only thing you should be breathing in is air.” Other dangers with vapes include the explosion of faulty batteries—in 2018, the first death due to the explosion of a vape battery was recorded.
Dr. Stumacher believes the dramatic increase in youth using vape products is the result of JUUL’s aggressive marketing tactics—the JUUL corporation controls 72% of the vaping market. The company’s net worth has now reached $16 billion, and continues to increase. In December of last year, Altria, the producers of Marlboro cigarettes invested $13 billion in JUUL for a 35% stake in the thriving company. Following this, JUUL™ divided the ensuing $2 billion profit among their 1,500 workers, amounting to a holiday bonus of roughly $1.3 million for each employee, further proving that JUUL™ has money to spare, and doesn’t plan on going anywhere anytime soon.
Nicotine is not the only substance that is being vaped—70% of young people who vape are vaping T.H.C. concentrates. T.H.C. is the high-inducing (just confirming this is the right term) substance in cannabis, and can be extracted into concentrates. The extract is then mixed with an oil or wax base, and can be inhaled through a ‘wax pen’ or other vapes. A traditional marijuana ‘blunt’ (this may be just me, but I don’t know what a blunt is. Another way to put this would be “Traditional plant marijuana. . .”) is composed of around 10% T.H.C., while a vaporized version ranges from 70%-99% T.H.C., resulting in a much stronger ‘high’ feeling. It is much easier to over-consume T.H.C. through a pen than it is through smoking a blunt. Not to mention these oil/wax concentrates or e-juices come in a variety of different flavors, ranging anywhere from bubble gum to cola.
It is difficult to comprehend how far this epidemic has gone. Studies show that 13.3% of eighth graders, 23.9% of tenth graders, and 27.8% of twelfth graders have used vape products in the last 30 days.However, Dr. Stumacher added that when he does his classroom talks, students always say they believe more than half of their peers participate in the fad.
In 2015 youth cigarette use reached an all-time low—11% of the U.S. youth population smoked. And yet, from 2011-2015, studies showed a 967% increase in the number of high school students who currently use e-cigarettes. Most recently, the trend continues to soar—the largest year-to-year increase in substance use ever recorded among 10th – 12th graders was between 2017 – 2018 when the Monitoring the Future Study (an ongoing, national study which surveys approximately 50,000 8th , 10th and 12th graders every year) was released in December 2018 and showed a 75% increase in youth vaping in the last 30 days among high schoolers. This translates into 1.3 million more youth smokers of vape products in 2018 than 2017.
Dr. Stumacher ended with ways for a parent to his/her to their child about vaping. He recommends the “Ask, don’t tell” policy. Instead of telling a child to stop a bad behavior, ask them how and why they may be behaving that way. Teens may feel spoken down to, and disrespected when told what to do, and therefore more likely to continue the bad habit. Dr. Stumacher recommends setting aside a short, uninterrupted period of time, such as a car ride, to talk to your kids about this topic and any other uncomfortable topics. Car rides are ideal as the child knows there will be an end to the conversation and do not have to make direct eye contact.
If you have concerns about your child, you may also utilize the Pelham School District’s in-school resources by emailing Kelley-Anne Lonergan, Student Assistance Counselor, at firstname.lastname@example.org. Several handouts and slides from Dr. Stumacher’s presentation are available at the Pelham Together website at http://www.pelhamtogether.org/resources/substance-abuse/vaping/
70 Pelham teens, from 6th – 12th grade, came out for a night of Super Smash Brothers, Mario Kart, Just Dance, and more on Friday, January 25th at the Pelham Art Center. AJ Rella walked away with the cash prize for winning the Super Smash Brothers Tournament! Thanks to the PAC for having us!
A Pelham student from the audience asked Dr. Stumacher at our recent Vaping presentation, “how can students communicate the dangers of vaping with their peers?” That’s a GREAT question. As we know, kids listen to their friends, sometimes more than adults. Jack Waxman, a Scarsdale student, knew this too, and so he created this video. Play it for your kids.
Congratulations to PMHS Students Charlotte Howard and Ian Childs for their HOP Awards, and PMS Students Isabella Fauber and Jack Boyce for their HOP Jr. Awards!!
Pelham Memorial High School junior Charlotte Howard and Pelham Memorial High School senior Ian Childs are the recipients of the December 2018 Heart of Pelham (HOP) Award. Pelham Middle School 8th-grader, Isabella Fauber, and 7-th-grader Jack Boyce are recipients of HOP Jr. Awards for the same period. Thanks to Mr. Art Scinta of Houlihan Lawrence and The Junior League of Pelham for their generosity in sponsoring these awards.
Charlotte Howard was celebrated for her determination, compassion and good citizenship. After research and sheer will, Charlotte made a trip to Ghana—halfway around the world—to help those in need. She was part of a group who helped build compostable toilets for this community, improving the environment and their quality of life. Being so moved by that experience, Charlotte established a website to raise funds to return and set up more compost toilets in these and other communities. Charlotte’s commitment to service is also evident in her activism to organize the Polar Bear Plunge team for PMHS, raising over $1,400 for the Special Olympics, and taking on the role as co-President of the club to motivate her peers to join the cause! Her efforts are evident here in Pelham as well; for several years, Charlotte has accompanied a young child through town on Halloween, sacrificing her own time with friends, to ensure she was able to enjoy trick-or-treating and who otherwise wouldn’t have been able to. Her nominator describes her positive spirit as “contagious,” and her nature as “self-motivated, selfless, and sincerely empathetic.”
Ian Childs received a HOP award for his kindness, compassion, and community engagement, having made quite an impact in his Huguenot community and throughout Pelham. As a Deacon and a member of the Handbell Choir at Huguenot, Ian is a leader and role model for younger members of the community, described by his nominator as one whose, “leadership has permeated throughout the entire spiritual community at Huguenot.” Ian has integrated community service into his life as a frequent participant in various mission trips, where he has given of himself to make the world a better place. Examples of Ian’s character point to a recurring theme—how much of an influence and profound effect he has had on his peers. As a member of the faith community and as a member of the PMHS football team, Ian is described as “inclusive, welcoming” no matter whether he’s at church or in the locker room.
Our HOP Jr Award winners have started demonstrating these character traits at an even younger age! Both Isabella Fauber and Jack Boyce were chosen by PMS teachers, guidance, and administration and are honored beautifully in these words written about them by their PMS community:
Best-selling author John C. Maxwell writes, “A leader is one who knows the way, goes the way, and shows the way.” Our Heart of Pelham Jr. Award recipient Jack Boyce perfectly fits that definition of leadership. As described by his teachers and his coach, Jack easily checks off all the boxes you would want if creating a list of the attributes of a positive role model. He is honest, kind, respectful, hardworking, tenacious and helpful to others. He can be called upon at any time for help, as was the case when he volunteered his time to visit one of our elementary schools to help orient our incoming sixth grade class. But Jack also knows intuitively when others need help and acts on it, as he did when he reached out on his own to help a new student transition to the middle school. Jack is the student who greets everyone in the hallway with a smile, works well with everyone and helps others within the classroom, and thanks his teachers each day when class has ended. On a daily basis, and without fail, Jack “knows the way, goes the way, and shows the way,” and is a deserving recipient of the HOP Jr. Award for his leadership, kindness, and being a good role model.
Nobel Peace Prize winner and human rights activist Desmond Tutu is quoted as saying, “Do your little bit of good where you are; it’s those little bits of good put together that overwhelm the world.” Our Heart of Pelham Jr. Award recipient, Isabella Fauber clearly intends on overwhelming the world by doing more than just a little bit of good. As a middle school student, Isabella has already accumulated seven times the number of service learning hours that are required for middle school. She has helped with the Fall Festival, gift wrapped with Pelham Civics, was heavily involved in the Pennies for Patients drive at the middle school, helped with Thanksgiving in a Box packaging meals and kind notes for families in need, and served on a student panel for parents of incoming sixth grade students. Isabella has given of herself to many causes, all while maintaining the highest level of academic achievement. She is one of the most hard-working, diligent and well-rounded students in the middle school. She is self-disciplined, honest, and shows genuine respect and care for all of her peers and adults alike. Isabella’s tireless efforts in achieving for herself, and for improving the world around her, make her a well-deserved recipient of the Heart of Pelham/HOP Jr. Award.
Because of the generosity of Art Scinta of Houlihan Lawrence and The Junior League of Pelham, all winners received gift cards and were celebrated at a small ceremony hosted by J Café on December 18, 2018.
Do you know a Pelham teen doing great things in the community and who demonstrates compassion, leadership, integrity or determination? Nominate him or her for the Heart of Pelham PACT (HOPP) Award! The next round of nominations is due by April 30, 2018.
After last night’s fantastic presentation by Dr. Richard Stumacher, Pelham has begun a community-wide conversation and sharing of information on the topic of e-cigarettes and our youth. If you missed the event, or want more tips for how to talk to your kids about this epidemic, this resource from Partnership for Drug-Free Kids is very helpful.