TUCSON – With it easy to conceal in clothing and backpacks, teen vaping has become an epidemic in schools across Pima County.
To help find solutions and spread the awareness of the dangers of e-cigarettes and other vaping products, the Pima County Health Department and Pima County School Superintendent Office announced Wednesday that the entities have partnered up for a joint campaign to help end youth vaping.
In 2018, the Arizona Youth Survey showed that nearly 47 percent of Pima County high school seniors have tried an e-cigarette or a vaping device at least one time. According to the Centers for Disease and Prevention, teenagers are consuming nicotine at nearly the same rate as they were 30 years ago.
“One of my friends actually offered me to try his vape pen because he said that it would help me calm down,” Adriana Noriega said.
Noriega is a senior at Cholla High School and is one of several teens helping to launch, the “Real Deal” campaign, to raise awareness to teen vaping.
“I actually didn’t even know that Juul pens…or vape pens even had nicotine in them,” Noreiga said.
Research shows nicotine can hinder brain development through age 26.
“There is kind of a system where the upper class have more access to buying these vape pens and then they’re able to help under classmen have access to it,” Madeleine Zheng, senior at University High School said.
Tucson City Council hopes to prevent that by raising the age to buy tobacco and e-cigarettes to 21.
“That is the only way you can cut e-cigarette use in the high schools by around 50 percent by doing this,” Paul Durham, Tucson City Councilman said.
He said his proposal for 2020 has widespread approval with those on the council. Pima County may also consider the change.
“Schools should do more work in trying to realize that vape pen is exactly the same as that cigarette that they had to deal with 30 years ago,” Noreiga said.
The campaign organizers say they hope this campaign will help adults understand their roles in ending the vaping epidemic.
“So what this campaign is going to do is bring the awareness of this epidemic and crisis,” Dustin Williams, Pima County School superintendent said, “But then also deliver actual items where we can go to these schools and really help.”
For more information on prevention, click here.
EDITOR’S NOTE: News 4 Tucson’s Anthony Victor Reyes contributed to this story.