Vaping ‘rampant’ at Indiana schools as CDC investigates ‘lung injury outbreak’ linked to e-cigarettes

Vaping ‘rampant’ at Indiana schools as CDC investigates ‘lung injury outbreak’ linked to e-cigarettes

INDIANAPOLIS (WISH) — Electronic cigarette use in Indiana schools is becoming increasingly common among younger students, some teachers noted.

The American Heart Association hosted a panel to discuss youth vaping concerns Thursday at the Indiana Minority Health Coalition in downtown Indianapolis.

Panel speakers included Isabel Jensen, a Carmel High School junior who spoke with News 8 in June 2019 about Carmel’s proposed expansion of local smoking bans.

Jensen had encouraged the city council to further regulate vaping at her school, which she described in June as “crazy rampant.”

During Thursday’s panel, she said most of her vaping peers showed no signs of quitting and seemed unconcerned with possible health impacts. 

“Half of each of my classes are kids that vape,” Jensen told News 8.  “I asked [some classmates] why they Juul or why they think it’s okay. Well, they tell me that there’s nothing wrong with it. They tell me, ‘It’s not going to hurt me.'”

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) is investigating an “outbreak” of lung injury associated with vaping, according to a post on the CDC website updated Tuesday. 

As of Jan. 21, at least 60 deaths and 2,600 lung injury-related hospitalizations had been linked to e-cigarettes products, heath officials said.

The number of Americans between the ages of 15 and 34 who had tried a “Juul” e-cigarette increased from approximately 6% in 2018 to 13.5% in 2019, according to a study published by the American Medical Association.

Indiana school administrators observed e-cigarette use among students in even younger age groups.

“I talked with a colleague who teaches at a middle school,” said Kurt Benjamin, another panel speaker and assistant principal at Pike High School. “She said kids there are even beginning to vape.”

Hours before Thursday’s panel, she had disciplined a high school student who was caught vaping on campus.

Despite evidence of health hazards associated with vaping, some Pike Township students use e-cigarette products in an effort to be perceived as “cool,” according to Benjamin.

Doctors and health officials called for increased e-cigarette regulation to offset sometimes unreliable teen judgment.

“Their brains are not in a place right now where they can make the kind of intelligent choices that, when they’re 40, they can look back on and say, ‘This is what I wanted to be doing for the last 25 years,'” said Dr. William Gill, a cardiologist and president of the American Heart Association board of directors.