LT hosts vaping info meeting for community


Ron Melka speaks about the carcinogens in vape and all of the dangers and risks they pose to students (Makovic/LION).

Diane Makovic, Copy editor

The SC PAC was filled with parents from around the LT community on Nov. 6. About half of the seats were filled at 7 p.m. to hear a presentation called The Truth about Vaping, put on by the Parent Community Network, The Coalition for Drug Free Lyons Township, and Rosecrance Health Network, an organization that provides adults and adolescents with comprehensive addiction services.

“There’s a lot of you here,” Matthew Quinn, Rosecrance Health Network Community Relations Coordinator said, commenting on the number of parents at the event. “We had an event one year ago. There are more of you here now than there were at the event last year. I think that speaks to what we are dealing with here. I think a lot of you are here because maybe you’ve been getting questions from your kids. Your kids are trying this and you don’t know what to tell them.”

The 90-minute event consisted of a slide show presentation followed by 30 minutes of questions. The presentation attempted to educate parents on the dangers of vaping and how to communicate with their teenagers.

In a separate room, the Rosecrance Health Network set up “Hidden in Plain Sight”- a model of a teenager’s bedroom to show where vaping devices and supplies can be hidden. This supplementary display provided attendees with a hands-on model to show how easy it is to hide substances among everyday items.

“The goal of this presentation was to spread awareness and reach out to parents,” Principal Brian Waterman said. “With the release of the [Illinois Youth Survey,] it was perfect timing to educate parents on the dangers.”

There has been a big jump in vape users, a trend that is not being seen with other drugs, Quinn said. Of the students who used e-cigarettes for the first time ever in the past year, 24 percent had used them in 2018, compared to only 13 percent in 2016. These survey results came from the Illinois Youth Survey in 2018, in which 3,800 LT students participated, Director of Curriculum and Instruction Scott Eggerding said.

There were fifty-four student incidents related to vaping by the end of quarter one this school year, as opposed to 19 at the end of quarter one last year, Waterman said.

“For vaping, student use vaping frequently or very little,” Eggerding said. “[There is] almost no in-between. For our seniors, 30 percent of the students who vaped had vaped more than 20 times in the previous year. That’s not the case of many other drugs.”

Part of the presentation focused on the effect vaping has on teenagers’ brains and the misconceptions behind it. Before the brain is fully developed, it develops in the areas where it gets rewarded. If students start to get high frequently, then their brains start to expand when they get high and shuts down other areas because it feels good, Ron Melka, Executive Director of Lyons Township Mental Health Commission, said. They will not focus their energies as much on developing other areas, and those areas will be pruned and shrink.

Vaping devices are not regulated by the FDA, Melka said. They contain chemicals that are similar to traditional cigarettes, including many carcinogens.

“Do you think as many kids would be doing it if it was called aerosoling?” Quinn said. “I can understand why kids would think [vaping] was harmless just based on that term. It used to be ‘e-cigarette’ for years, and I wish it still was because to me an e-cigarette sounds closer to what is actually being inhaled than vapor. That’s a huge part of this problem— the fact that kids are falling for that and thinking that what they are inhaling is just flavored humidifier air.”

This year LT added a new education component to its drug code. Students who are caught vaping must attend two one-hour sessions on the dangers of vaping.

“We don’t believe that we can do just one thing or one event,” Waterman said. “It’s the combination of things that creates a cumulative effect. From assemblies to posters to our health curriculum and the efforts in student services, put all of it together and you get an impact. We believe that this parent event is one more tool in the toolbox.”

To see a complete live recording of the event, go to LTTV’s youtube page (LTTVonline). Read about the Illinois Youth Survey at