UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. – As vaping becomes more prevalent in high schools and middle schools, parents and communities can take steps to help prevent teens from vaping or engaging in other risky behaviors, according to experts at Penn State.
Melissa Tomascik, prevention coordinator for the PROSPER (PROmoting School-community-university Partnerships to Enhance Resilience) program, and Jonathan Foulds, professor of public health sciences and psychiatry at the Penn State College of Medicine, responded to concerns about the rise in vaping by teens on the Jan. 30 episode of “Conversations LIVE” on WPSU.
“Vaping is a huge concern with parents,” Tomascik told viewers. “Vaping has only been around since 2015, so we don’t know what kind of gateway drug it could be.”
More than one-quarter of 12th graders nationally have vaped nicotine in the past month, according to the National Institute on Drug Abuse.
“In PROSPER, we start to talk with kids in 5th and 6th grade,” said Tomascik. “We teach them skills to cope with stress. And we want them to be prepared to say ‘no’ if they experience peer pressure.”
Tomascik offered these recommendations for parents and guardians:
“We focus on prevention, no matter what substance is out there. We know decreasing risk factors, increasing protective factors, and supporting our youth will give them a healthier future,” said Tomascik.
She also advised communities to support evidence-based programs for youth and families, like PROSPER. Penn State’s EPISCenter supports a range of evidence-based programs for schools and service providers across Pennsylvania.