Photo by James Fortozo
All eyes and ears of FHS’ students and staff were directed toward the CCA on Thursday, Aug. 29, as the school welcomed a guest: governor Eric Holcomb.
Holcomb and Indiana Department of Health Commissioner Kristina Box paid a visit to the school in order to announce the new initiative implemented to fight teen vaping in Indiana. Holcomb and Box both agree that this is one of the toughest challenges facing the students of Indiana and many other states today. In recent weeks, many teenagers have been hospitalized due to severe illness, and one commonality has been found among all of them.
“Many of these patients are young people, just like yourself, who are gathered here today,” Box said. “The only common denominator that we’ve found thus far is that individuals all report vaping.”
The 2018 Indiana Youth Tobacco Survey reported that teen e-cigarette usage has increased in recent years, including 35,000 more students in Indiana alone using these products between the years 2016 and 2018.
“That puts 35,000 more young people in harm’s way,” Box said. “Not only from respiratory illnesses like the ones in the news, but also at risk of becoming addicted to nicotine and other substances as they grow.”
Box pointed out the significance of this number by comparing it to the size of FHS.
“That’s almost ten times the population of Fishers High School,” Box said. “As physicians, parents and educators, our job is to keep our kids out of harm’s way.”
These statistics led to the announcement of Indiana’s new plan to combat the vaping and e-cigarette problem in schools across the state. Box and Holcomb described the plan as a three-pronged approach. The approach includes educating students, teachers and parents, creating public knowledge of the issue and a texting program designed to help people quit.
“It’s really a heightened effort focused on e-cigarettes,” Holcomb said. “We want to make sure we’re focused on e-cigarette use and abuse, especially with the youth. We’re talking about sixth graders, seventh graders, eighth graders and students throughout high school.”
The new initiative is not just aimed at helping students become more educated. It is also aimed at helping adults become more informed on the epidemic so they know how to better deal with the situation.
“We have to make sure that educators have a tool kit so they can connect to the students that they’re surrounded by on a day-in, day-out basis,” Holcomb said. “We’re making sure that parents have access to that as well.”
Part of the tool kit that Holcomb discusses involves a new texting program for students, educators and parents to use when seeking guidance.
“There are some technology features here, like the texting program, to help,” Holcomb said. “That’s how many of us communicate these days. It can’t just be some billboard in some place. It has to be able to follow the habit and it has to be able to follow the person.”
Holcomb also discussed exploring new ways to prevent more students from getting their hands on e-cigarettes and vaping products, such as raising the age to buy tobacco and cigarette products to 21.
“There’s an effort on the federal level, led by Todd Young, to raise it across the country,” Holcomb said. “It has a lot of support, but it’s not there yet.”
FHS was a prime location for the announcement, as the epidemic is prominent in high schools across the state. FHS was ready and willing to prepare for such an event.
“It proved to be the perfect venue,” Holcomb said. “You all were able to pull it together in a fast fashion. When Principal Urban agreed, we got the word out, and we had a full house – which was fantastic.”