According to a recent Michigan Profile for Healthy Youth Survey, 1-in-10 seventh grade students, 1-in-5 freshmen and 1-in-3 juniors in Eaton County has tried “vaping,” a form of heated nicotine absorption though an electronic nicotine delivery device. The startling findings of the student survey were shared with Charlotte City Council members Monday, Jan. 14. 

The growing “vaping” epidemic was the focus of a special presentation from Kim Thalison, prevention services supervisor at Eaton RESA, Charlotte Public Schools and the Charlotte Police Department. 

“Overall, teen substance use has been trending down,” Thalison said. “However, vaping use has jumped 10 percent in two years. In the last four years it has hit youth in a really remarkable way. We’re fighting a fire with water bottles, using limited resources to prevent youth from vaping.”

Thalison said 95 percent of vaping devices include nicotine. Because electronic nicotine delivery devices are not regulated by the FDA, packaging is often misleading. The only law on the books is the prohibition of the sale of vaping products to anyone under 18. It is not, however, illegal for a youth to possess or use vaping products.

“Vapor products are now the leading substance abused by teens,” Thalison said. “What happens when teens use substances at an early age, when their pre-frontal cortex is still developing is that it changes how all of that works. When you use nicotine or when you use other substances, it changes the release of dopamine in your system and dopamine is what makes you happy, and motivated. When using substances, your body gets used to that level of dopamine and you want more and more, and your use goes up and up. That’s why teens get addicted to substances so quickly.”

Thalison said health consequences related to vaping includes increased issues with lungs, including asthma; it can create permanent issues with mood disorders, and can cause a permanent lowering of impulse control.

Charlotte High School assistant principal Sharee Burdick said vaping is an issue the administration at the high school has to deal with on a daily basis. 

“It’s a constant battle on a day-to-day basis,” Budrick said. “We’re hoping we can get some support somewhere, and try to get the kids the help that they need before it becomes a problem.”

Thalison said the City of Eaton Rapids worked with Eaton Rapids Public Schools in recently adopting an ordinance and coinciding policy that makes it illegal for anyone under the age of 18 to use or possess vaping products.

“This is something the city and the schools can work together on,” said Charlotte City Mayor Tim Lewis. “Looking at possibly drafting an ordinance that not only takes a look at what the city wants, but what the schools want. This is something we need to work together on.”

A joint meeting between the city and Charlotte Public Schools to address the issue will take place Wednesday, Jan. 30.