Officials fighting youth vaping in Fresno County

FRESNO COUNTY, Calif. (KFSN) -- Vaping continues to be a dangerous and prevalent problem among Central Valley teens.

The California Student Tobacco Survey reveals almost a quarter of Fresno County 10th and 12th graders have tried e-cigarettes.

The data was tracked from September 2019 to March 2020. Of the 22% of students who said they used a vaping device, 6% said they are currently vaping.

Numbers, unfortunately, are not shocking to leaders with the county's Tobacco Prevention Program.

"We already know youth vaping has become such an epidemic in our country," said May Chung, health education specialist.

According to Chung, the program receives several calls from school districts when it finds a student with vaping products. She also said concerned parents would call after finding it in their child's backpack.

"When they talk to their child, their child said, 'Yeah, I got it...there's this store who sells it to anyone.' It's very concerning," said Chung.

The report found more than 21% of the students that said they paid for their devices got it from a store.

"Our survey results show that over half of our students, half of Fresno County students, live within walking distance of a store that sells tobacco products," Chung said.

The program is working with law enforcement and school districts to steer young people away from e-cigs.

In October 2019, Fresno County Sheriff's Office received a $4 million grant from the state attorney general to help fund more outreach and enforcement.

Grant money was also given to local school districts.

Last school year, Central Unified spent one morning listening to a presentation about the dangers and risks of vaping.

"A lot of these products contain nicotine," Chung said. "Nicotine itself is a neurotoxin."

Chung believes education, awareness and policy change can help bring the numbers for youth vaping down, but most importantly, keep youth safe and healthy.
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