PANAMA CITY BEACH, Fla. (WMBB) — So far this year, the Center for Disease Control says 33 people have died in the United States from vaping or e-cigarette related illnesses.
In the state of Florida, 68 vaping illnesses have been reported so far. The state has seen one death due to the epidemic.
A school resource officer at Surfside Middle School is saying enough is enough and started a new educational campaign entitled ‘#EscapeTheVape’.
“We want to educate kids before it becomes a bigger issue and if we can stop it before kids have issues then that’s great. We can have an impact now and before someone establishes a habit that they can’t stop,” said Bay County Sheriff’s Office Deputy Conway Reeder.
The campaign started weeks ago and Reeder says he knew he wanted to recruit the help of student leaders to spread the word, calling on the club, Students Working Against Tobacco (SWAT) for help.
“I’m really happy that right now we’re making a difference with just our school. I hope I can make it bigger one day as well,” said SWAT President Atra Bishehban.
The program aims to educate kids on the health dangers of the act but also the legal risks they are taking if they do choose to partake.
Reeder says the vaping epidemic is similar to one in the past.
“It’s really trendy with middle school kids and high school kids. I’d equate it to smoking 20-30 years ago and we want to do some preventive work,” Reeder said.
Bishehban says having little information on the e-cigarettes makes the act even more dangerous.
“Vaping was created to replace cigarettes but aping is causing most of these deaths. We don’t even know about the products in them. Which I feel like is more deadly than cigarettes because we know the products in cigarettes but we don’t know the products in vaping,” Bishehban said.
Reeder says the earlier they can get information into a student’s mind, the healthier they can be in the future. Vice President of SWAT, Shanae Kisi agrees.
“It should be there for any grade level because even if you’re in elementary, you can still have the thoughts about it so you should learn as soon as possible that you’re not supposed to do this when you’re older,” Kisi said.
Reeder says even though it is his job to physically protect students, he also knows he has a responsibility to educate them in any way that can keep them safe.
“The more tools I give them to take care of their selves, the better off they are if I’m not there or someone else is not there if they know it’s bad then no one has to be there to tell them it’s bad,” Reeder said.
Reeder says Arnold High School is launching an #EscapeTheVape campaign themselves and he hopes to spread it through the district.
SWAT is also holding a poster contest for students at Surfside to help spread the word of #EscapeTheVape.
The winner will receive a Nintendo Switch.
For more information on the contest, Surfside students can pay a visit to Mr. Ramsey.