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State board of education discusses vape problem

The Utah State Board of Education discussed the youth vaping problem at their monthly meeting. (PHOTO: Shutterstock)

SALT LAKE CITY, Utah — The well-documented problem of youth vaping in Utah has made its way onto the agenda of the Utah State Board of Education, which met Thursday at the Board’s headquarters in downtown Salt Lake City.

Elected officials discussed recent numbers, proposed legislation and potential problems with any changes.

Rep. Susan Pulsipher spoke on behalf of Utah instructors when she said there is mounting frustration about how to handle the issue.

“What do we do with the devices?” she asks. “We have a box, what do we do with them?”

The proposed legislation would tackle how to better clarify student search protocol.  But beyond that, the Board hopes to improve what happens after a student is caught “red-handed.”  Rep. Pulsipher says students aren’t taking the current system seriously.

“They were caught vaping, they went to something and came out laughing,” she says. “It was a joke.”

More importantly, she says the goal is to eradicate the problem and thereby preventing the need for disciplinary action.

One school of thought holds that eradicating the problem begins with preventative programming.

“If we can help teach them pro-social behaviors,” Rep. Pulsipher said, “and things that will help them do positive things, not negative things, they won’t start on these harmful behaviors and then we won’t be spending our time trying to help them get off.”

Studies find that kids are vaping earlier and earlier, increasing the need for outreach at a younger age.

“What we want to do is add one [outreach program] to fourth or fifth grade, so we can also have an age-appropriate curriculum in elementary [school],” she explains.

Numbers from a recent Student Health and Risk Prevention (SHARP) Statewide Survey found nearly 10% of all Utah students in 6th, 8th, 10th and 12th grades have used an e-cigarette product in the past 30 days.

The proposed bill addressing both components will come before the committee later this month.