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Santa Clara Schools, Police Battle Teen Vaping Issue

The new numbers are scary. A recent study by the County of Santa Clara Public Health Department found vaping is on the rise among teens.

More than 31 percent of teens surveyed in Santa Clara County say they’ve tried e-cigarettes; more than 13 percent of those teens surveyed say they’ve used e-cigarettes in the last month.

The survey talked to 8th, 10th and 12th graders at 18 schools in Santa Clara County. The Santa Clara Unified School District (SCUSD) says none of the schools surveyed were within the district, however, district officials are still concerned.

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“While our schools were not included in the study, we know that the data applies to all children in our county, including students in our school district,” said SCUSD Superintendent Dr. Stella M. Kemp. “We are committed to teaching our students about making safe, educated decisions as they learn to be responsible citizens.”

The district partners with the Santa Clara Police Department (SCPD) to provide D.A.R.E. training at all of its schools.

“D.A.R.E. is a program that is always evolving,” said SCPD Captain Wahid Kazem. “I think some folks still associate the program with its original intent of just a drug abuse type of program. However, over the years it has really grown to what is common for our kids to be dealing with.”

D.A.R.E. is initially taught at the 5th grade level. An hour a week for 10 weeks, a police officer will visit the school to talk to students. Each week focuses on a different issue facing kids including alcohol, tobacco, drugs, conflict resolution and bullying. In the spring, a module on vaping will be added to the program.

“We do go back in middle school and teach a shorter version of D.A.R.E. in middle school where vaping will once again be part of the curriculum,” said Kazem. “In addition to all of that, we actually have a 30-minute presentation specifically on vaping that we offer geared towards adults, meaning parents or teachers, as well as a very specific presentation we can give to students of any age outside of the D.A.R.E. program.”

“The program uses social emotional learning theory to teach children how to control their impulses and think about risks and consequences. This ultimately results in students making more responsible choices,” said Dr. Kemp. “Scientific studies about the effectiveness of D.A.R.E. show a decrease in students’ use of, or intent to try, drugs, alcohol and tobacco products and I’m pleased to hear that the curriculum is being updated to include vaping.”

While vaping has only become popular in the past few years, the County of Santa Clara Public Health Department is warning people to be cautious.

“E-cigarettes and other vape products contain many chemicals…and we don’t fully know what the harms of these substances might be in the short and long term,” said Dr. Sara Cody, County of Santa Clara Health Officer and Director of the Public Health Department. “What we do know, however, is that e-cigarettes and other vape products containing nicotine are harmful to the developing brain, which includes the adolescent brain.”

For its part, the county also partners with schools and community organizations to help prevent youth from using tobacco and vaping products.

For more details on the study, visit sccphd.org/tobaccofree. To find out more about the D.A.R.E. program, visit DARE.org or contact the SCPD.

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