PLANT CITY, Fla. (WFLA) — At least one in four teens admits to vaping, according to a study published this week in the Journal of the American Medical Association.
Miranda Bihler, a senior at Durant High School in Plant City, considers teen vaping an epidemic she just can’t ignore.
On Thursday, Bihler organized an anti-vaping initiative at Durant open to students, teachers, and families to inform of the signs and side effects of using e-cigarettes. The project is part of Bihler’s community work to earn the Gold Award through the Girl Scouts.
As a high schooler, Bihler explained she’s surrounded by vaping and vape culture every day but feels not many of her peers fully under the health or legal consequences.
“People were picking up the habit without really knowing the repercussions,” she said. “I’ve never done it personally, but I could tell around me folks were definitely getting into those bad habits.”
Bihler’s seminar came just a day after Hillsborough County commissioners voted to crackdown on teen vaping, raising the legal age to purchase and possess vaping products to 21 years old.
It also comes a day after JAMA published its latest teen vaping study, finding that roughly 5.3 million teens use e-cigarettes.
Vaping-related illness is also on the rise, with the CDC reporting more than 2,000 cases and 39 confirmed deaths, including at least one in Florida.
Fellow Durant senior Belani Boyd brought his mom Tracey to Thursday’s seminar. He applauded Bihler for her hard work educating their peers.
“They just need to understand at least what they’re putting in their bodies,” he said, admitting many of his classmates vape but few seem to fully understand the potential harm.
Boyd’s mother Tracey just recently learned about vaping. Now, as a parent, she wants to learn all she possibly can. She was disappointed to not see more parents like her in the crowd.
“When I came in through the door and I saw how little were here, I was very surprised,” she said. “Especially with the epidemic going around our community and in our schools.”
Another component of the evening was teaching parents what to look for if they are concerned their child might be vaping. Just a few of the red flags include frequent throat clearing, dry mouth or eyes, and any unusual smells, either from the vapor itself or using scents to disguise the vapor.