Emily Rice Published

State Officials Aim To Stop Vaping Before It Starts

A man is seen from his left side smoking an electronic cigarette.Eva Hambach/AFP/Getty Images

West Virginia State Health Officer Matthew Christiansen announced the “West Virginia’s clear future, don’t let vaping cloud it,” campaign, a statewide initiative to stop kids from trying electronic cigarettes.

The initiative will offer CATCH My Breath vaping prevention curriculum to every county in the state over the next three years.

The first year of the program will focus on middle schools, as data indicates the optimal time to prevent e-cigarette experimentation is by the age of 14.

The 2019 Youth Risk Behavior Survey found that a total of 50.1 percent of U.S. high school students had used an e-cigarette product in their lifetime, and 32.7 percent had used an e-cigarette product in the past 30 days.

“In 2021, almost half of high school students reported either current or past use of e-cigarettes and vaping products,” Christiansen said. “This has really become a new addictive product on the scene that we’ve known that we have to really address and get to the bottom of.”

The announcement was made during Gov. Jim Justice’s weekly media briefing with State Superintendent of Schools Michele Blatt. 

According to a study from the National Library of Medicine, teen use of cigarettes has declined greatly. However, adolescents’ use of alternative tobacco products has risen rapidly, largely due to the popularity of e-cigarettes.

“I truly believe that our students think that vaping is safer than cigarettes and that it’s not going to do the damage to their health as they do with cigarettes because it is so new,” Blatt said. “My goal, my hope is with this program and our partnerships, that we’ll be able to inform our students of the health risks, and the dangers of vaping and be able to catch a lot of those middle school students before they do get addicted to these various things.”

Teachers and counselors will need to agree to serve as facilitators of the CATCH My Breath program and receive a free two-day, six-hour, online learning course to prepare them to present the curriculum. They will then act as facilitators to deliver four 40-minute sessions to students over a four-week period.

The DHHR’s Division of Tobacco Prevention is working in collaboration with the American Lung Association and Partners in Health Network to identify and contact schools. Other partners include the Pallottine Foundation of Huntington, West Virginia and the Claude Worthington Benedum Foundation.

Appalachia Health News is a project of West Virginia Public Broadcasting with support from Charleston Area Medical Center and Marshall Health.