It was so packed at the teen vaping symposium at City Hall Wednesday night, kids were sitting in the mayor’s chair, on the floor and around the podium while parents, many standing, listened keenly to experts address how a nationwide problem is now Santa Clarita Valley problem.
The emerging health problems surrounding the smoking-like phenomenon called vaping are unfolding so quickly, overhead slides referencing two deaths linked vaping had grown to six in the past couple of weeks.
Last week, public health officials announced the first death in Los Angeles County directly linked to vaping.
Capt. Robert Lewis of the Santa Clarita Valley Sheriff’s Station shared details of a harrowing story about a local teen who were rushed to the hospital for about three months ago with life-threatening problem brought on through vaping.
“This individual was using a vape pen with THC,” Lewis said. “The student suffered respiratory failure and was rushed to the hospital.”
“That opened our eyes to the problem,” Lewis said. “We didn’t expect it to happen here, but it happened.”
“Everyone in this room and in the city, in the Santa Clarita Valley, has to know that there is an issue here and the issue is vape,” he said.
“When you take a hit off vape, you don’t know what is in that vape,” he said.
Lewis told the group about a seminar on vaping he attended six months ago about a “criminal element” creating vape pens containing Fentanyl and other drugs.
“You have to be aware that when you put it into your body and not know what it is, you’re playing Russian roulette with a vape pen,” he said.
Astounding local stats
At least 37 percent of high school seniors are using vape products, according to Bob Sharits from The Way Out Recovery SCV.
About 67 percent of all students said vape products are easy to get.
Tstatistic that resonated most profoundly with mothers at the symposium: 1 in 10 eighth-graders are using vape products.
Sharits told the story of a 15-year-old who showed up at his treatment center having overdosed four times in the space of a year on nicotine.
“The anti-smoking talk about nicotine and the truth about nicotine worked, and that’s what we need to do with vaping,” he said.
The vaping symposium closed with about a dozen questions from parents, each of them read by Capt. Lewis and then referred to one of the experts for an answer.
Q & A
“What signs should I look for if I suspect my child is using vape?” Lewis asked, tapping Intervention Specialist Travis Sabadin to answer.
“Hug them,” Sabadin said, to chuckles and laughing. “Hug them and smell them. They will smell differently.
“What is the best way to approach your child suspected of vaping?” Lewis read, reaching out to J-Team Detective Bill Velek.
“Directly,” Velek said. “Don’t be shy in asking questions. Always come from a place of love and kindness.”
Velek also suggested “know their friends” and “know what they’re looking at on the internet.”
Before the experts addressed the issue of vaping, symposium attendees had a chance to sample a “resource fair” — sort of a mini-conference — which featured booths arranged around the room, manned by agency’s offering help in addressing the issue of vaping.
“I didn’t know there was such an epidemic out here in Santa Clarita,” said Lisa Vaverka, a concerned mother. “I was at a friend’s house in Simi Valley and their fourth-grade son said he has a friend bringing vape to school.”
The aspect of vaping that hits her most profoundly is how constant vape users are vaping.
“With cigarettes, you have a cigarette, you put it out. But, when it comes to vaping, they’re constantly smoking on it,” she said.
“It’s like candy,” she said. “They’re smoking on it all day.”
For more information about the Parent Resource Symposium and efforts made to educate youth in Santa Clarita about living drug-free, please visit dfyinscv.com/PRS.