The Fulton County Schools district has a big problem with its students, and it doesn’t involve skipping school, tardiness, grades or bullying.
According to district spokesman Brian Noyes, students vaping, or using electronic cigarettes (also known as e-cigarettes), is a “huge” issue in the district.
“The kids that are vaping do not understand that the flavor they receive through vaping is masking the negative medical implications of vaping,” he said.
“The conversations that these kids are having about vaping is that it is more socially acceptable now.”
Noyes addressed the Fulton Board of Education on the issue at its Oct. 17 meeting at the South Learning Center in Union City while speaking about the district’s legislative priorities for the next Georgia General Assembly session, which starts in January.
The meeting came the same day Juul Labs Inc. announced it is stopping online sales of its sweet and fruity e-cigarette pods as federal regulators prepare to remove most vaping products from the market in response to a rise in teen vaping.
According to a Wall Street Journal article, Juul, a San Francisco-based company that leads the e-cigarette market with 64% of e-cigarette sales in retail stores, last year halted sales of such flavors in brick-and-mortar stores but had continued to sell them on its website, which has age restrictions.
Juul has been blamed for an increase in teen vaping and is being investigated by the Food and Drug Administration, the Federal Trade Commission and federal prosecutors in California.
Also, eight days before the meeting, the Georgia Department of Public Health and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention issued a public health advisory on the risks of vaping and the use of e-cigarettes following Georgia’s second vaping-associated death.
In September, CDC officials urged the public to stop vaping after officials said they had identified 450 possible illnesses, including at least three deaths, in 33 states linked to e-cigarette products.
At the meeting, after Noyes addressed the board, its members said they were not ready to take a position on how to address the vaping issue yet and directed him to return to the next meeting Nov. 21 with additional options the district could use to combat the vaping issue.
The district has already begun its own campaign against vaping through public service announcements, which included students creating an anti-vaping video the district itself is using to combat the problem, Noyes said.
“We are taking some progressive steps to tackle this problem, so this discussion with the board was another way to tackle the problem, (by) going through the Legislature,” he said.
District 3 board member Gail Dean then asked him, “I want to know how many other school districts or municipalities are also looking into moving forward with legislation to outlaw flavors in vaping.”
According to Noyes, many legislators are talking about this issue, “and I think there (are) a lot of other groups who are interested in this issue.”
“I think this is also an issue we should get the attorney general’s attention on,” he added.
Noyes said another major concern the district has with vaping is it’s difficult to determine how many students are doing it.
“We don’t have any exact numbers on students who are vaping, but it is a daily issue as we are finding kids who are vaping,” he said.
DeKalb and South Fulton Neighbor News Editor Christine Fonville contributed to this report.