Fannin students, parents, officials engage on vaping

The question was asked by a Fannin County High School student: “How can I stop safely, if I am addicted?”

It was one of many questions answered by a panel of community and school leaders during Fannin County School System’s community meeting last week to discuss the dangers of vaping and addiction. 

While many may believe vaping is a safe action, District Attorney B. Alison Sosebee insists this is untrue.

“I know that there has been a perception in the past that vaping is no big deal,” said Sosebee. “That you are just simply ingesting flavored water, that there is really nothing to it. The problem that we’re facing, not only in north Georgia but as a nation as a whole, this is almost a completely unregulated industry. You don’t know what you’re ingesting.”

Georgia Board of Pharmacy President Bill Prather also urged students to realize the dangers of the unknown.

“It just appalls me that any person, particularly a young person, would take something that they know absolutely nothing about and ingest it into their system,” said Prather. “You’d be much better off eating road kill ’possum. Then at least you know, by God, it’s a ’possum.”

Students have become addicted to the substances used in their vaping devices. 

“We have students who are already addicted to whatever substances that they were ingesting,” said Sosebee. “They have come forward, their parents have come forward, and they are asking for help to break that addiction because they don’t know how.”

Students are being offered addiction counseling through a partnership with Highland Rivers Health and the schools. Community awareness is key in treating and preventing addiction, according to Highland Rivers officials. 

“Addiction as a whole carries a stigma, which means most people think it’s a moral decision or a choice,” said Director of Addictive Diseases Ansley Silvers. “It may start that way, it may start that way in your teens, but the damage that’s occurring to the brains of these developing individuals is frightening. So I think it’s just critical for this community to pull together to understand that addiction is treatable, and that you can also prevent addiction through prevention.”

 

‘Pathway’ to vaping

Dr. William H. Whaley believes there is a pathway to vaping and nicotine addiction. He said increased cellphone use can lead to sleep deprivation, which leads to fatigue, which leads to energy drinks, which can lead to nicotine addiction and then on to vaping. 

The most popular vape brand among adolescents is Juul. The Federal Drug Administration (FDA) has given the company six months to find a way to better combat the underage purchasing of their products. Multiple panel members believe that Juul is marketed for youth use.

“This Juul, their sales are up 675 percent in the first six months of this year,” said Whaley. “That’s because vaping in the adolescent community has gone up by over 300 percent in less than 12 months.”

The panel urged parents, students and other community members to continue the conversation to ensure that a solution could be found before tragedy strikes.

“There’s an opportunity to engage in a conversation that impacts our community before tragedy occurs,” said Highland Rivers Health CEO Melanie Dallas. “We haven’t had that child death related to this, but everyone on this panel can tell you, that if we don’t look at this seriously, if we don’t support the youth and families in our communities … that could be on the horizon. 

“That’s how serious this is. So I invite all of you to engage in this conversation long past tonight because in six months, in one year, we don’t need to be having this same conversation.”

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