OCEAN COUNTY – In the wake of what many have coined the “vaping crisis,” the Ocean County Prosecutor’s Office is forming the Escape the Vape Taskforce, a county-wide coordinated response to the youth vaping epidemic in Ocean County.
The OCPO partnered with RWJ Barnabas Health Institute for Prevention and Recovery, the DART Prevention Coalition, Community Medical Center, Deborah Heart and Lung Center, Ocean County Department of Human Services, Ocean County Youth Service Commission, Ocean County Health Department, Ocean County Branch of the Association of Student Assistance Professionals (ASAP NJ), and the Ocean County Association of School Administrators to establish the taskforce.
The Escape the Vape Taskforce presents a multi-pronged approach to addressing vaping, using education, policy change, and cessation. The Taskforce acknowledges and understands the importance of assisting schools in reviewing tobacco policies and connecting young people with appropriate cessation resources, according to OCPO.
“The creation of this Taskforce is a direct response to the youth vaping epidemic in Ocean County. Collectively, we were all being inundated with requests to come out and speak to various groups about vaping. As we were all trying to get out there and educate the public, it became very apparent that we were overlapping in some communities. This Taskforce will help to streamline the message and enable us to reach a wider audience and get the facts to the kids and their parents,” Prosecutor Billhimer stated.
According to a 2019 Monitoring the Future Survey, nationwide, 25.5% of 12th graders, 19.9% of 10th graders, and 9.6% of 8th graders had vaped nicotine in the past 30 days. This is a big difference when compared to the use of traditional tobacco products like cigarettes. While 11.7% of 12th graders reported daily nicotine vaping, only 2.4% of 12th graders reported daily smoking of cigarettes.
In addition, there has been a significant increase in the use of vapes which contain THC oil concentrates, the psychoactive ingredient in marijuana.
The Center for Disease Control (CDC) has been closely monitoring illnesses associated with vaping, now called EVALI. As of December 27, 2019, 2,561 hospitalized EVALI cases or deaths have been reported to the CDC from all 50 states, the District of Columbia, and two US territories (Puerto Rico and the U.S. Virgin Islands). Of that, 55 deaths have been confirmed in 27 states and the District of Columbia. New Jersey has experienced 53 confirmed EVALI cases, 46 probable and 1 death.
The Escape the Vape Taskforce has already covered a lot of ground, training over 1,000 school personnel, 1,000 community members, and 2,400 youth/students. The DART Prevention Coalition has also trained over 150 youth peer educators in the community in collaboration with school districts who are now delivering educational presentations to their peers on the dangers and risks of vaping.
The Taskforce will run a series of Train-the-Trainer sessions to equip the community with the knowledge they need to understand the vaping epidemic and to provide this information to young people in the county. Attendees will receive a comprehensive training guide and will walk away with the ability to educate adults or youth about vaping. They will also receive continued support from the Taskforce, access to an online portal to access the presentation (a living document updated as we learn more about the epidemic), vaping fact cards for youth and parents, and information and access to cessation resources, school policy, and community programming.
The first Train-the-Trainer event will occur on Friday January 24, 2020, at St. Luke’s Church, 1674 Old Freehold Road, Toms River, in conjunction with the Ocean County Children’s Interagency Coordinating Council (CIACC).
For more information on vaping presentations for your community or school, contact Abby Thompson, Youth Prevention Manager at the RWJBH Institute for Prevention and Recovery at Abigail.Thompson@rwjbh.org.
For information on how to quit smoking cigarettes or vaping visit rwjbh.org/nicotinerecovery.