By Ali Steward, MPH, Director Youth Services, Beach Cities Health District
Medical experts and public officials around the country are sending an urgent message to e-cigarette users of all ages: refrain from vaping now. The U.S. Surgeon General named vaping a youth epidemic. This message is particularly important in the Beach Cities – Hermosa Beach, Manhattan Beach and Redondo Beach – where surveys have shown above-average rates of vaping compared to other areas of the state and the U.S.
In the Beach Cities, 1 in 4 11th graders vape regularly, and 4 in 5 report that it is fairly easy or very easy to access vaping devices, often sold in flavors that are appealing to youth, including strawberry, watermelon and pink lemonade. Unlike other substances that might make their way to campus, vaping devices are hard to detect, and can easily be concealed, because many look like common devices such as highlighters or USB chargers, and can easily be slipped into a pocket or backpack.
At Beach Cities Health District (BCHD), we are taking steps to provide resources for students and families and reinforce the message that vaping is dangerous – particularly for youth, who are putting their health in danger. BCHD has developed a series of programs and events to raise awareness, including:
Creating a vaping-specific web page with information for e-cigarette users, parents and educators at www.bchd.org/vaping;
Hosting public forums on vaping and e-cigarette use;
Partnering with the Los Angeles County Department of Public Health and UCLA to inform clinicians in the South Bay about symptoms associated with vape use;
Hosting a training for school nurses and health aides in local school districts;
Encouraging parents to “Talk About It” with their children.
These initiatives are part of BCHD’s ongoing efforts to reduce youth substance use. The Beach Cities Partnership for Youth Coalition, spearheaded by BCHD and comprised of more than 150 community partners, has prioritized substance use prevention since 2017, with a special emphasis on vaping. At the August Coalition meeting, a dozen students from BCHD’s Youth Advisory Council presented about health and social implications of the vaping epidemic. The Council will continue to prioritize peer-to-peer strategies to combat this urgent health issue.
Additionally, through ongoing parent education and a partnership with South Bay Families Connected, more than 6,000 parents have been reached on the topic of vaping, mental health and stress resilience.
For more information, go to www.bchd.org/vaping.