Health Center Director and school nurse Eric Duffy and Dean of Students and Director of Resident Life Jake Abbott are leading Lincoln Academy’s educational campaign about vaping.

Since the teen vaping epidemic began in 2017, Lincoln Academy has been working directly with students to educate them about the realities of e-cigarettes. The initiative has been led by Dean of Students and Director of Resident Life Jake Abbott and School Based Health Center Director and nurse Eric Duffy with support from Healthy Lincoln County.

“We still don’t know what we don’t know about the real health effects of vaping, especially on developing brains” said Duffy. “Tobacco companies have a vested interest in keeping information about what’s in their products a secret as long as possible. One way they have been able to sow confusion is by changing the claims made about their products. While there are some people who have stopped smoking by using e-cigarettes, they number far less than those who have become addicted to them in the meantime. First and foremost these are nicotine delivery systems, not tools designed to help wean people off nicotine.”

Lincoln Academy’’s educational efforts have included presentations to the student body at assembly and in advisor group, posted notices in hallways and bathrooms, outreach to faculty and parents, and first-offense “educational detentions” for students who violate the school’s vaping policy. In 2018 Healthy Lincoln County undertook an in-depth survey about teen behavior, including around smoking, and presented the results to the entire school.

At the LA all-school Community Meeting on Friday September 20, Duffy reiterated this message to the gathered student body with characteristic passion.

“I am not going to tell you what to do, but I am going to present you with evidence-based research and let you make your own decisions,” said Duffy. He proceeded to describe the effects of nicotine on developing brains, and how “exquisitely sensitive lung tissue” is affected by inhaling heated chemicals intended to deliver nicotine as fast as possible to the brain.

He reminded students that Juul, the brand of e-cigarettes most popular among teens, is now owned by Altria Inc., the corporation that used to be called Phillip Morris before it was broken up by the 1998 Tobacco Settlement. It was formed in 2017 and is now among the top five most valuable corporations in the world.

“The Tobacco Settlement proved that in the 70s, 80s, and 90s companies were manipulating cigarettes to deliver nicotine directly to the brain as quickly as possible. They got caught, and the adults here remember this clearly. Now they seem to be doing something similar with e-cigarettes, through patent protections and obfuscation and marketing, and we are falling for it again! Now we are on death-by-vaping number eight in the news. How many more deaths will it take to get your attention?

“Consider this: if you think you are trying to fool people, you are mistaken. You are smoking what is essentially the ingredients of hand sanitizer, and giving your body the most intense nicotine dose ever seen by humans. There is very little we can do once those patterns of addiction are formed deep in your brain.”

“We are so lucky to have a nurse at Lincoln Academy as passionate as Eric is about this issue,” said Jake Abbott. “The students really connect with him. We are reinforcing the message about vaping through multiple channels, and hope that students are informed enough to make good choices. For some, it may be a matter of life or death.”

According to Duffy, “this is not a joke, and this is not a fad. Once you are 14 it is confidential to talk to a medical provider–so come to the Health Center office and talk to us. That choice is up to you, but we can help.”