Lincoln Academy student members of the Nicotine Addiction Recovery Committee, who are concerned about vaping among teens, include Erin Dworkin, Riley Stevenson, and Tiger Cumming. These students are supporting the administrators, social workers, and guidance counselors of the LA Student Services Team who are asking Governor Janet Mills to ban e-cigarettes in Maine.

On October 1, 2019 the Lincoln Academy Student Services Team made up of administrators, guidance counselors, health care providers, and social workers, sent a formal letter to Governor Janet Mills urging her to ban e-cigarette sales in Maine, joining Massachutts, who declared a public health emergency and passed a four month ban on all nicotine and tobacco vaping products on September 24. Other states, including New York and Rhode Island, have passed bans on flavored vaping products that are particularly appealing to young people.

The letter reads: “Dear Governor Mills, Youth addiction to e-cigarettes and vaping is out of control. In the past year alone, vaping among high school students has increased by 78% and in 2018 more than 20% of high school students surveyed identified as current users of e-cigarettes. Did you know that while youth are using e-cigarettes and vaping devices at alarming rates in Maine, there are no FDA approved treatments for addiction in kids under the age of 21? You are a champion for healthy communities, an advocate for Maine’s youth, and you’re working on new strategies to address the state’s addiction crisis. So we are calling on you to join with the neighboring state of Massachusetts and immediately ban e-cigarettes and vaping in the State of Maine.

Nicotine use in adolescence has been shown to harm the parts of the brain that control attention, learning, mood, and impulse control and it significantly increases the likelihood of addiction to other drugs. There is mounting evidence that e-cigarettes and vaping devices, marketed as “safer” alternatives to traditional smoking, have catastrophic health consequences: Nine Americans have died and hundreds more are suffering from acute pulmonary diseases linked to vaping. Maine reported its first case of acute lung illness in the past week.

Schools have limited resources to address addiction, but this crisis is in our students’ homes, our hallways and classrooms. We ask for more research, we ask for FDA review, and we ask for more time. You know it is not always easy building healthy schools and communities, help us remain focused on teaching in our classrooms by banning these dangerous devices.”

The letter goes on to detail some of LA’s efforts to help students conquer their vaping addiction. It is signed by members of the Student Services Team: Jake Abbott, Dean of Students and Director of Residential Life; Andrew Mullin, Associate Head of School; Laurie Zimmerli, Director of Special Education; Eric Duffy, Director School Based Health Center; Sarah Wills-Viega, Director of Counseling and Studies; Jose Cordero, Guidance Counselor; Eliza Gleason, Guidance Counselor; Tory Wright, Licensed Clinical Social Worker; Lisa Katz, Licensed Clinical Social Worker; Luke Suttmeier, Director Alternative Education; and Kelley Duffy, Director of Curricular Instruction.

Meanwhile, a group of concerned LA students has also begun meeting to discuss vaping awareness and how students can help their peers make good choices around e-cigarettes. The group calls themselves the Nicotine Addiction Recovery Committee. “I care about this issue because I have seen the effects of nicotine addiction on my peers and want to find a way that I can help as a member of this school and this community,” said junior Riley Stevenson, a member of the group. “This group has met a few times to discuss these issues and we are looking for ways to bring more understanding to our student community.” While students did not sign on to the initial letter to the governor, they are talking about sending a letter of their own in the coming weeks.

The Students Services team has shared their letter to the Governor with state legislators as well as other schools and public health organizations around the state urging them to take action through similar letters or other measures.

“As high school administrators, guidance counselors, and social workers we are on the front lines of a public health crisis,” said Dean of Students and Director of Resident Life Jake Abbott, who led the effort to send the letter to Governor Mills. “We see it as our duty to speak out and let the governor and other officials know how serious this is. Young people are dying, and our own students at LA are struggling with serious, potentially lifelong addiction. We hope state officials will see how critical this situation is, and help us combat this threat to young people’s lives.”