BOSTON (CBS) – Teenagers in Massachusetts and across the nation are reaching for e-cigarettes in alarming numbers. At the same time, new concerns are being raised about the possible connection between vaping and serious lung illnesses.
There are some young people who are actively working to help their peers kick the habit, like Matt Murphy of Reading. He vaped during high school.
“Those things lie to you. You don’t know that you are addicted at first,” he said.
Murphy is now a college junior. He says he tried vaping at a party in high school and was lured back by the mint flavoring.
Flavor Ban Bill
“Once I realized I was brutally addicted, I wanted to quit – and then you can’t quit,” he recalled.
It took two years and many failed attempts, but Matt did quit. Now he spends a lot of his free time at the State House, supporting a bill that would ban flavored tobacco products in Massachusetts.
“I’ve been offering testimony, doing press conferences, whatever I can to get the word out,” he said. “The impact of banning flavors would be massive on the youth vaping problem.”
“It’s an enormous problem,” explained senate sponsor John Keenan. “You talk to parents, teachers, superintendents, coaches, they will all tell you that teen vaping is out of control.”
Schools are clearly struggling with this issue. We polled several districts and discovered a significant spike in suspensions for vaping just in the past few years.
During the 2015/16 school year, there were no suspensions for vaping in Brookline, this past year there were 33.
Holliston had a similar increase, from one student suspended in 2015/2016 to 45 this past year.
In Arlington, where suspensions went from zero in 2015/2016 to 12 this past year, students are worried about their peers.
School Support Groups
“In the future, it’s going to become such an issue that we are going to have to do something,” said recent Arlington High School graduate Grant Wadman.
He and several other students spent last year conducting a research project that showed a frightening increase in vaping among their classmates. They proposed a plan to offer support groups in school for kids who want to quit.
The idea is to, “offer some sort of way to get help without the chance of getting in trouble,” explained junior Maya Jacob.
The students’ idea is actually coming together for this fall. The Arlington Youth Health and Safety Coalition will be hosting meetings at the High School library.
Matt Murphy believes the ban on flavored products and the idea of offering support groups could both be part of a solution.
“We want less addicted kids and that would be a good step.”