COVID credited with local rise in vaping

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Officials at local school districts say vaping continues despite new vaping laws enacted by the Utah Legislature. “It is definitely a trend that is on the up and up, and I think with COVID-19 it has just gotten worse,” Provo School Board President Melanie Hall said. (AP Photo/Steven Senne, File)

Vaping still persists in its high popularity among Utah’s youth, despite anti-vaping laws enacted by Utah legislators in 2020.

“It is definitely a trend that is on the up and up, and I think with COVID-19 it has just gotten worse,” Provo School Board President Melanie Hall said, adding that students have had more downtime to experiment with vaping.

According to Yale Medicine, there may be a link between vaping and COVID-19. A ScienceDirect study found that 13 to 24-year-old vape users were five times more likely to get a COVID-19 diagnosis.

“It just seems these days that kids are more likely to start an addiction problem with vaping,” Provo School Board member Nate Bryson said. “We see how attractive it is to children and companies have marketed flavors like cotton candy and make it seem innocuous.” 

According to Ryan Bartlett of the Utah Department of Health Tobacco Prevention & Control Program, more people have turned to tobacco products during the pandemic. “The pandemic is a stressful situation where people don’t know what to expect. From little surveys here and there and calls to the Quitline, we’ve seen that there has been a bit of an uptick,” Bartlett said.

Utah legislators passed a spate of anti-vaping bills into law before the pandemic struck. There has been some progress since then. In June 2021, the Provo City School District officially joined the national lawsuit against the vape company Juul.

According to Hall, the law group driving the case is currently waiting for more districts to join and move forward. 

Awareness and education can also be used to help combat the rising underage vaping issue. Bartlett said parents who are willing to have an open-minded discussion about vaping can help their children curb the habit. “Students and youth who feel like they can talk about it are going to be much more likely to find the resources that they need,” he said.

Students within Utah County have been making strides in spreading awareness about vaping. After a student-run effort coordinated by Outrage Youth Group and the Island Teens Advocacy Team establishing anti-vaping signs on Nebo School District buses, Provo City School District is eager to follow suit, already posting signs on some of their own buses. 

Outrage coordinator Sarah Simons said she believes student-led advocacy is the best way to approach legislators with issues that directly impact youth. In addition to the anti-vaping signage, Outrage is assessing the community to better understand where the most underage vaping instances happen and will focus on raising awareness based on those needs.

Simons said the youth involved in Outrage felt empowered. “They felt like they really did make a difference in the community. It felt like adults really listened to them. And they could confidently say that they were helping to combat the youth epidemic.”

For more resources on vaping prevention, readers can visit the See Through the Vape and Way to Quit websites or call 1-800-QUIT-NOW. If teenagers ages 12-18 or parents are interested in getting involved with Outrage, they can contact Sarah Simons at .

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