$4 million grant aims to educate local students about vaping dangers

FRESNO, Calif. (KFSN) -- According to the state attorney general, one of the most significant health risks to young Californians is vaping and electronic cigarettes.

While the number of people who smoke cigarettes has steadily declined over the past few years, the number of teens vaping has skyrocketed.

"Here in California, one in eight high school students are using tobacco and of those about 84% are vaping," said Attorney General Xavier Becerra.

Tuesday, alongside Fresno County Sheriff Margaret Mims, Becerra announced a grant that will give some local police agencies funding to do more outreach and enforcement.

"Some of the activities that we are involved in is what we call 'shoulder tap' operations, where we actually use a minor to go into a business and see if they will actually be sold a tobacco product," Mims said.

The money will be given to 13 various police agencies and some local school districts. The funds came from the tobacco tax -- Prop 56.

Several smaller communities like Kingsburg, Orange Cove, Parlier, Selma, and Sanger also received funding. Sanger Police Chief Silver Rodriguez says his department will receive $350,000.

"In speaking to school district personnel and administrators they are telling us that it's a real serious problem and it's definitely something that needs our attention," Rodriguez said.

Each agency will get to choose how the money is spent. The sheriff says depending on the location and problem facing a particular region, the approach could vary.

"Not every area is exactly the same. There are areas in Fresno County for instance where canned tobacco products are prevalent and young people will use them," Mims said.

Several school districts will also be getting grants to educate students more about tobacco dangers. They include Exeter Unified, Los Banos Unified, Firebaugh, Las Deltas Unified and the Tulare County Office of Education.

Some agencies will be hiring school resource officers to keep a pulse on tobacco use within campuses.

The use among students as young as elementary school is causing great concern.
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