Thirty-four. That’s the number of confirmed vaping-related deaths across America to date. That is thirty-four too many. This is why Mark Began and Cyndy Hillier of Tualatin Together and Representative Rachel Prusak are joining forces with other community leaders. Principal Tim Gross from Hazelbrook Middle School, Principal Michael Dellerba and Associate Principal Kim Holden of Tualatin High School, Washington County Tobacco and Prevention and Addiction, StandUp Tualatin, Resource Officers Brian Miller and Kevin Miller, City Councilor Paul Morrison and devoted volunteers came together to form a coalition through a round table open conversation. Vaping is a growing concern in our community, especially for those who work with students.
The tobacco industry targets young people, as evidenced by enticing them with flavors such as cotton candy, bubble gum and creme brûlée, to name a few. Oregon, along with Michigan, Massachusetts and New York, is entrenched in a legislative battle to ban flavored vaping products and have a temporary stay.
Tim Gross, Hazelbrook Middle School Principal, says the school’s Health class curriculum for seventh and eighth graders will tackle the vaping issue in hopes of early prevention. Kim Holden, Associate Principal at Tualatin High School, brought her display featuring confiscated vaping products from the high school. Approximately ten to fifteen vaping products are confiscated in a given week. The display is in the school office to educate parents and staff. The vaping devices pose a striking resemblance to highlighters and the cases for lead that come with mechanical pencils. Holden added, “Parents need to look for things like gum and body spray in their child’s backpack. These things are used to mask the odor.” She continued, “If they’re using THC products, they may also carry eye drops.”
Prusak, who represents West Linn and Tualatin, is fighting for legislation to raise the taxes on tobacco products, end the online sales of vaping products, as well continuing to fight for the flavor ban on vaping and e-cigarettes that is targeting young people. Prusak is passionate about health. For the 2019 Legislative Session, she is serving on the Healthcare Committee as well as the Joint Committee on Ways and Means subcommittee on Transportation and Economic Development. In addition to being our representative, she is also a nurse practitioner. She is no stranger to working with patients to fight nicotine addiction. She is alarmed by this issue facing our youth.
Because this issue is still very new, the resources surrounding it haven’t quite caught up. Until then, people facing addiction, even those under 18, can purchase nicotine patches, nicotine gum and nasal spray. Want to join the fight? Ask your students about vaping and visit healthoregon.org/vaping to learn more about the effects of vaping. You can also reach out to Representative Prusak Rep.RachelPrusak@oregonlegislature.gov.