OSU Extension course targets vaping

ST. CLAIRSVILLE — The Ohio State University Extension Office in Belmont County is offering a resource for the schools and juvenile court to hopefully counteract drug use among young people, with a focus on vaping.

While many people view the habit as a harmless pastime, the sometimes-dangerous contents of vape pens are a concern, along with the potential for vaping to be a first step toward harder drugs.

OSU Extension educator Lorrissa Dunfee said she has offered the course since 2018 and sees about three to four youths per month as ordered through the juvenile court.

She said the program has served about 60 youngsters in total in the past several years, but within the last month the school districts have begun referring students directly to her. She expects to see many more in the future.

“We know that vaping is a huge issue, but getting the referrals is kind of a struggle,” she said. “All the school districts don’t have the same process for a violation. We were seeing maybe two to three students per month, but we know that it’s a way bigger issue than that. Even some school districts have reached out to my office to see if we could do something, because they’re having such an issue. … We’re trying to get all of the school districts on board, and we’re hoping to see more kids referred.”

Dunfee said students enrolled in the program range from third-graders through high school seniors.

“Some of the school districts don’t necessarily want to get juvenile court involved, and so they can just make the referral. Now all the school districts know that it’s an option,” she said. “Now that we’re talking to all the school districts and trying to get everyone on the same page, I think we’ll start seeing that class size increase.”

Classes are about one-and-a-half hours long and are held once a month. She said the class is modeled after the Car Teens program. They must bring a parent or guardian with them. She reviews the health and addiction hazards of vaping.

Dunfee said there have been few cases of recidivism or repeating the program sinceit began.

She also commends early preventive efforts as the best course to hopefully reduce the drug epidemic.

“The longer you can delay starting to use, the better. The addiction process, the earlier it starts, the more difficult it is to stop, and it leads to other things,” she said. “The kids, most of them are saying they do it because all their friends do it. They know it’s bad for them, but they don’t really know why it’s bad.”


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