Montgomery County drug prevention specialists working to combat rise in teen marijuana vaping

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CLARK COUNTY, Ohio (WDTN) – Prevention specialists in the Miami Valley and throughout the state are sounding the alarm on a surge in teen marijuana vaping.

This week is National Prevention Week. A federal drug survey shows one in five 10th and 12th graders had vaped marijuana in the past year, double the rate from a few years ago. Prevention specialists say companies are marketing vaping in increasingly sophisticated ways, so they have to improve their prevention efforts.

Fran Gerbig is the executive director of the Prevention Action Alliance. She says, “Students are smart, and if they’re presented with accurate data — correct data — they’re inclined to make good decisions for themselves.”

The Prevention Action Alliance says more teens are exposed to videos with electronic cigarettes, so they’re more likely to use. That’s why intervention specialists say it’s critical to include teens in peer-to-peer messaging.

Carey McKee of the Clark County Partners in Prevention says, “They really make us aware of where this marketing is coming from, because there are things we as adults we’re not watching.”

This Wednesday will focus specifically on preventing marijuana use. In Clark County school counselors are worried the pandemic is worsening the trend. McKee says, “They’re just real concerned that when they were at home possibly unsupervised with the internet access there is probably more access to the products.”

Preventionists are making concerted efforts to show not everyone is doing it, and to increase awareness of the harm. Gerbig says, “If you have access to it, you’re going to experiment. If you don’t think it’s a problem, you don’t think it’s harmful, then you’re more likely to try it.”

Gerbig says vaping is being popularized on social media, which helps destigmatize it and making it seem more normal for teens.

McKee says more than 45% of Springfield teens surveyed had tried electronic vaping. And while real-time pandemic data is not available yet, they think they’ll know the full scope in the fall.

Gerbig says, “I have every confidence in the world we’ll continue to see the positive impact that prevention has on the lives of young people.”

Carey McKee says one Juul pod has as much nicotine as a pack of 20 cigarettes, another example of the importance of reaching children as soon as possible.

When Springfield students are caught vaping, they’re making an effort to educate them about the dangers, rather than just punishing them.

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