By Kathy Walsh
JEFFERSON COUNTY, Colo. (CBS4) – The Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment says Colorado teenagers vape or use e-cigarettes more than in any other state. Chatfield High School in Jefferson County is trying to stop that troubling trend with a class that educates and trains students on how to kick the habit.
“Stress is stress. Stress is part of being human,” Don Daniels told a class at Chatfield.
Daniels is teaching the teenagers how to relax.
“Meaningful, thoughtful, breaths think about your breathing,” he said.
The subject is unusual. The students’ identities are kept confidential.
In a classroom with tropical forest sounds and the scent of lavender, the 9th and 10th graders work on strategies to stop smoking electronic cigarettes.
“How do you calm that three to five minutes where your hair is on fire and you need nicotine?” asked Daniels.
Daniels teaches freshman government. He also runs Chatfield’s “Not on Tobacco” or “NOT” program, the American Lung Association’s voluntary smoking cessation program for teens 14-19.
“I haven’t seen cigarette usage in over three years,” Daniels told CBS4 Health Specialist Kathy Walsh.
He says, nowadays, small, easy to hide, electronic devices are the norm. According to a CDC survey, a quarter of Colorado high school students said they vape.
“It’s rampant. The kids have no problem accessing the devices and using them,” Daniels said.
Olivia Ridl started using e-cigarettes at age 15.
“It made me fit in and, I guess, feel cool,” Ridl said.
The NOT program helped her quit.
“I hardly even think about it,” she said.
Now, Ridl helps Daniels counsel other teens.
“Control the end of your day, control the start of your day,” Daniels told the group.
The session ended with donuts and carrots, perhaps an understanding that finding and sustaining a healthy alternative to anything may take time.
According to the American Lung Association, due to funding shortfalls at the state’s tobacco prevention program, funding for the NOT program, ended Sept. 1, after more than a decade of funding.
This year, Jefferson County Public Schools is covering the program for 10 high schools.
The plan is to look at the funding each year.