Springfield officials create plan to fight vaping epidemic


SPRINGFIELD, Mo. — A 2019 CDC report says more than one in four U.S. teenagers vape.

This week, FOX 4 in Kansas City held a town hall discussing the impact of this epidemic.

KOLR 10 spoke with Springfield officials to learn how they’re dealing with vaping locally.

But first, Dr. Laura Martin explained at Kansas City’s town hall how e-cigarettes can affect a teenager’s brain, which doesn’t fully develop until your mid-twenties.

“Nicotine binds to nicotine receptors in the brain, and in doing this, it increases dopamine,” Martin said.

Martin says years of research show that nicotine and other drugs change the brain.

“And decrease the number of dopamine receptors you have in the brain, which means you have to keep using the drug to keep those dopamine levels high,” Martin said.

Dr. Matthias Salathe says this leads to nothing but negative consequences.

“There are multiple studies, including from us, that show that the lungs are being damaged by this,” Salathe said. “If we wait for a few years for this, we will see similar to tobacco cigarettes, diseases creeping up on us in young people.”

It’s an issue that Safe and Sober’s Executive Director Jill Finney is working to address in Greene County.

“We’re putting together a program that gives education awareness and cessation for youth in our area to help them with vaping,” Finney said.

A $20,000 grant is making this program possible.

“We’re gonna have educational segments on video, and it’s like kids their age speaking to them, and telling them about the dangers of vaping and why they shouldn’t do it,” Finney said.

The Springfield-Greene County Health Department is one of many groups Safe and Sober worked with to plan this.

Cara Erwin with the Springfield-Greene County Health Department said collaboration is absolutely necessary to addressing the vape epidemic.

“Latest numbers from CDC show that one in three high schoolers and one in eight middle schoolers are current e-cigarette users, and Greene County numbers are tracking right alongside those,” Erwin said.

Erwin says becoming addicted to vaping only takes a couple of times.

“We can’t wait until we find out that our child has tried it a couple of times before we step in,” Erwin said. “We need to attack this from a preventative approach because if we don’t and we catch them after they’ve tried it just a few times, it could be too late.”

Finney says she hopes the program will be implemented in schools around Greene County by next school year.

Springfield Public Schools, Republic and Fair Grove School Districts were included in the grant.

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