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Education is Key to Addressing Teen Vaping Epidemic

a photo of vaping products
The American Heart Association says one in four high school students reparted using an e-cigarette in the past month.

The local chapter of the American Heart Association says one in four high school students report using an e-cigarette in the past month. The organization hosted a community conversation about the issue Thursday with school administrators and students.  

Addison Johnson, a senior at Akron’s STEM high school, told the Heart Association vaping devices are small and easy to use undetected at school. He also said there’s a misperception among students who use them.

“Because of stress and anxiety. A lot of time it’s a relief for them, it’s like ‘if I do this, it’ll calm me down.’ They think it helps them,” Johnson said.

Ohio’s Tobacco 21 law has been in effect since October, raising the age to purchase tobacco products from 18 to 21. But Johnson said students know places where they can get vaping devices without showing an ID.

One of the panelists, Bonnie Simonelli, is an at-risk coordinator for the Revere Schools. She told the Heart Association the community response to this issue has been more effective.

Bonnie Simonelli talks about efforts to stop teens from vaping.

“We’re always kind of behind the times when we learn about something. But getting in there fast with education, helping them to understand the damage it’s doing; that it’s not a safer alternative like it was sold. I see that students are starting to kind of know that.”

The Heart Association is part of Summit County Public health’s youth vaping task force. It plans to develop an action plan to continue to address the vaping problem. 

Panelists at the community conversation included: Firestone High School junior Luke Buckingham, Akron Early College sophomore Salam Said, Revere High School sophomores Max Crisalli and Alexis Zapisek, as well as STEM High School senior Addison Johnson. 

Besides Simonelli, Revere Local Schools Superintendent Matthew Montgomery participated along with Eric Merkle, a school psychologist with Akron Public Schools.  

A Northeast Ohio native, Sarah Taylor graduated from Miami University in Oxford, Ohio where she worked at her first NPR station, WMUB. She began her professional career at WCKY-AM in Cincinnati and spent two decades in television news, the bulk of them at WKBN in Youngstown (as Sarah Eisler). For the past three years, Sarah has taught a variety of courses in the School of Journalism and Mass Communication at Kent State, where she is also pursuing a Master’s degree. Sarah and her husband Scott, have two children. They live in Tallmadge.
Amanda Levine is currently a senior journalism major with a minor in sports administration. Prior to being an intern at WKSU, Amanda has experience as both a reporter and an editor. She was a sports reporter for the Kent Stater and eventually, an Assigning Editor. She also has experience covering campus activism and the 2019 government shutdown.