In a time when peer pressure and societal influences often lead middle and high schoolers down unsafe paths, the role of educational and authority figures like school counselors and teachers can be pivotal in providing guidance and better education.
Not only is vaping and other tobacco use unhealthy, but it also can lead to countless health problems — from lung cancer to heart disease.
According to the FDA’s National Youth Tobacco Survey, 11.3 percent of middle and high school students reported using tobacco products in the last month. While cigarettes, cigars, hookahs and smokeless tobacco have all been used, they each make up less than 2 percent of devices used. The most common tobacco device used by youth is e-cigarettes by far, making up 9.4 percent. Learn about youth tobacco use in South Dakota through the South Dakota Department of Health’s Youth Tobacco Survey.
As a school counselor or other authority figure, you can be supportive and provide guidance and education to youth who need help quitting their smoking, vaping or smokeless tobacco habits. Suspension and citation are not the only ways to address these tobacco abuse issues.
Challenges to Preventing Youth Use
Preventing youth from vaping and using other tobacco products comes with its challenges. According to the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration’s (SAMHSA) resource guide on the subject, a few of those challenges include:
• Ease of access to and availability of products.
• Marketing aimed toward youth and young adults.
• The common perception that vaping is low risk when compared to smoking.
• The use of products in public places like parks and businesses.
For South Dakota schools, there are many training options that are free for schools to host as a preventative measure or to further discourage and educate students on tobacco products.
Through the South Dakota Department of Health, CATCH My Breath is an evidence-based program for grades five through twelve that is shown to substantially reduce the likelihood of students using tobacco in the year following the program. CATCH My Breath is completely free to U.S. schools and even offers mini lessons for those in kindergarten to eighth grade.
For younger groups, like those in pre-K to second grade, schools can utilize the Samantha Skunk Prevention presentations. During these presentations, older students don a variety of costumes and act out one to three 30-minute skits to share a positive message on health related to tobacco use with the younger students. These presentations can cover topics like prescription medication safety, smoking and lung health and exercise.
Programs for Users
Not On Tobacco (N-O-T) was designed specifically for teens, ages 14 to 19. Through 10 50-minute sessions, N-O-T aims to give teens access to a toolbox of resources that helps to break nicotine dependency and redirect them to healthier outlets. These sessions work best with groups of 6 to 10 but can be done individually — in person or virtually. Branching off of the same curriculum, NOT for Me offers a self-guided, mobile-friendly alternative for students who are more self-motivated.
For students who have received an infraction, the American Lung Association’s INDEPTH is available to fulfill the obligation for the infraction without suspension or citations. Unlike the other programs, INDEPTH is not offered as a preventative program, aiming to address students who are already actively using or addicted.
Project SUN (Stop the Use of Nicotine) is a Native-American-focused curriculum made to target the difference between traditional tobacco and commercial tobacco in Native cultures. For students to be eligible, they must have used commercial tobacco within the last month prior to the session.
Resources for Quitting
Simply pushing a student to quit a bad habit is not enough. There are resources available for those who need more support.
For students who are vapers, This is Quitting is a 24-hour support service that brings more than 500,000 people together to share tips, thoughts, advice and other ways to help each other quit. The program is confidential, so students need not worry about parents or anyone else getting updates on their quit journey.
For smokers, vapers and smokeless tobacco users who are 13 or older, the South Dakota QuitLine offers a variety of quit tools for those looking to kick the habit. Phone coaching, the Kickstart Kit and the Quit Guide come at no cost through the South Dakota QuitLine.
Those who are not ready for additional help or nicotine replacements can order the Quit Guide, which is booklet that provides step-by-step instructions for everything from preparing to quit to staying quit and celebrating. For those who need nicotine replacements along with the Quit Guide, they can order the Kickstart Kit to their door. Inside the Kickstart Kit, users can expect two to four weeks of nicotine replacements in the form of gum, lozenges or patches as well as the Quit Guide and more quit tools.
One of the biggest benefits of the QuitLine is phone coaching, which makes people twice as likely to quit and stay quit. Along with phone calls, texting and video calls are also an option for the SD QuitLine.