Escape the Vape Week set at Worthington Middle School

Because they’re new, the health risks of e-cigarettes aren’t as widely known, and misinformation is common.

FILE PHOTO: District 518 held a parent information meeting Thursday, Dec. 1, 2022, about the student vaping problems seen in the schools.
FILE PHOTO: District 518 held a parent information meeting Thursday, Dec. 1, 2022, about the student vaping problems seen in the schools.
Tim Middagh/The Globe

WORTHINGTON — Worthington Middle School will celebrate Escape the Vape Week next week, offering education and resources for students and parents about vaping, or using e-cigarettes.

“I really hope that they find someone that really sees the Learning Center as the gem that it is. Someone who really has a heart for serving the students and the families.”
“I feel we should hold off on all new projects and see what happens with the referendum."
The District 518 Board of Education approved changes in employment for many employees at its March 21 meeting.

“It's no different here than anywhere else, I don't think our kids are any different in the choices they make than the rest of the state,” said Stephanie Jacobsma, school counselor at WMS. “It’s an epidemic in the entire nation.”

She believes the biggest issue relating to vaping is that unlike smoking, people lack information about it. Because they’re new, the health risks of e-cigarettes aren’t as widely known, and misinformation is common.

Kids don’t realize that vaping fluid isn’t just water and flavoring — it usually contains highly-addictive nicotine, which can harm brain development, according to the Centers for Disease Control.

Vape cartridges can also contain marijuana or illegal substances — and often, it’s impossible for those using them to know what’s in the cartridges.


Vaping Fact Sheet - - on Scribd

Another complicating factor is that e-cigarettes can be very small, and can look like almost anything, making them hard to identify. Also, vaping doesn’t have the acrid, unpleasant scent of cigarettes, but often smells like fruit or candy instead.

The most common reason kids give for trying e-cigarettes is “a friend used them,” but the most common reason they give for continuing to use them is that they feel “anxious, stressed or depressed,” according to the CDC. Because nicotine addiction can be a source of stress, and withdrawal can cause anxious or depressed feelings, vaping can quickly become a vicious cycle for many people.

“If you’re having a lot of stress, you’re looking for something to appease it,” said Vickie Lord Anderson, learning disabilities teacher at WMS, who's helping organize Escape the Vape Week with Jacobsma.

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We currently have positions open including K-12 teachers, school psychologists, speech and language pathologists, paraprofessionals, custodians and food service staff at all ISD 518 facilities.
The organizations hope to create scholarships for high school graduates entering college in an agriculture-related field.

Students who vape can be jittery, irritable or anxious, and often don’t realize what’s going on. And those who know what’s going on, they might be too embarrassed or afraid of getting into trouble to visit a counselor, Lord Anderson added.

Vapes are also comparatively easy for students to get, as they can be ordered online or sneaked from an older family member.

“And unfortunately, it’s marketed for young people,” Jacobsma said.

Many young people aren’t taking the bait, though. When the WMS Students Against Destructive Decisions group started talking about what kinds of issues students need help on, their top two ideas were vaping and self-acceptance, or feeling good about themselves, Lord Anderson said.

The local SADD group will oversee some events during Escape the Vape Week, including sharing vaping facts during the morning announcements, having a poster contest and hosting a pledge signing during the lunch hour.


Much of their work will be displayed for parents and the community to see on WMS conference day, Feb. 16.

In addition, there’s an optional video contest to participate in — the Escape the Vape Video Challenge, through the Minnesota Department of Health — and classes will also get to play games in class to win prizes.

“I have a lot of kids who just don’t know” about vaping, Jacobsma said.

Both Jacobsma and Lord Anderson encourage students to let a counselor or teacher know if they’re struggling with vaping.

“If you’re struggling, and you need to talk, that’s what we’re here for,” Lord Anderson said.

Those who need help with a vaping habit can contact Quit Partner at 1 (800) 784-8669 for more information.

A 1999 graduate of Jackson County Central and a 2003 graduate of Augsburg College, Kari Lucin started writing for newspapers in Minnesota and North Dakota in 2006. During her time as a reporter, she covered beats including education, watershed, county and agriculture, and frequently wrote about health and science. She has also served as an online content coordinator and an engagement specialist at various Forum Communications properties. She was a marketing assistant at Iowa Lakes Community College in Estherville for two years, where she did design work in addition to writing and social media management.

Lucin is currently a community editor with the Globe of Worthington.

Phone: (507) 376-7319
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