Cranston Schools hopeful flavored vape ban will curb teen use

With an emergency order signed by Gov. Gina Raimondo that will inevitably ban the sale of flavored vaping products in Rhode Island, school districts are hoping the ban will help curb the problem of teens vaping around the state.

Once that emergency order was signed, Gov. Raimondo said the ban was meant to protect children, as she claims the flavored products are marketed directly to younger users.

Meanwhile, the vaping epidemic is something districts have been trying to curb for a while now.

According to the Department of Health, about 20 percent of high schools students in the state said that they regularly use e-cigarettes, while 15 percent of middle schoolers said they have experimented with the products.

In the Cranston Public Schools system, it’s been a consistent problem, and Superintendent Jeannine Nota-Masse said a ban on flavored products is exactly what schools across the state need.

“Devices, the cartridges, they’re littering our school grounds. We see them in playgrounds, we see them in bathrooms,” Nota-Masse said. “We deal with it on a weekly basis I would say.”

Not-Masse admits that she believes the products were originally intended for adults to quit smoking cigarettes, but over the last five years she’s been the top educator in the district, she said more students have been picking up the habit.

“Once you start labeling it with strawberry, or chocolate milk, or bubble gum flavor then, to me, that’s a significant signal that you’re trying to entice younger students,” she said. “[It’s] being marketed towards kids and they’re buying it.”

She hopes that with a ban in place, students will end up kicking the habit, along with more education about what’s inside the products.

” I would hope that it would make it more difficult for younger kids and adolescents to get their hands on the device,” she said. “If the flavors are gone, maybe it’s less desirable for them.”

According to Joseph Wendelken, spokesperson for the RI Department of Health, it’s a problem that districts across the state have been bringing to the agency’s attention for years.

The DOH started tracking e-cig use among teens beginning in 2015.

“We know that in Rhode Island, youth use of e-cigarettes is enormously high, and an enormous public health concern,” Wendelken said. “E-cigarette use among young people in Rhode Island has really reached epidemic proportions.”

Nota-Masse said that she does not believe that kids will be going back to smoking cigarettes, as she said teens now are well-informed about the health risks of smoking.

She said Cranston Schools works closely with the Police Department and Substance Abuse Coalition to inform students about vaping and the risks.

Once the Department of Health hashes out the emergency regulations that will last 120 days, flavored vaping products could be off the shelves as early as next week.

©WLNE-TV/ABC6 2019