WEST SENECA, N.Y. — "It is completely unrealistic for there to be an expectation that a child who is addicted to nicotine is just going to be able to quit cold turkey," says Jessica Hutchings with Kids Escaping Drugs.
Hutchings is the director of Face2Face, an education program that goes into schools to talk to students about substance abuse and addiction.
"Within the last two years or so," recalls Hutchings, "the schools have really started to come to us and say, 'What do we do about the vaping?' "
It's free and open to families that have concerns about their child's vaping habits.
"We're going to require that a parent attend these sessions with their child," stressed Hutchings, "because it's equally important for the parent to be educated on the topic"
Health and education experts say there is so much that parents don't know about vape products and the extent that they can be used.
"Any substance that is water soluble can be vaped," explained Hutchings. "We're talking about synthetic forms of marijuana. We're talking about synthetic amphetamines. We're talking about products like bath salts and pump-it powder that you heard about in the media years and years and years ago. They can all be vaped. What's dangerous about those is they don't show up on drug tests, and kids know that."
With so many schools now enacting zero tolerance policies for vape products, there is a lot of concern about the resulting suspensions and how forcing students out of seats might hurt more than help.
Hutchings says this is a solution that might work for everyone.
"What we hope that the schools are going to do is require their students to attend this program in lieu of a suspension when they're caught at school with one of these devices," she said.
"When we first started talking about this and delivering this information," Hutchings tells 2 On Your Side, "there was hesitation to even bring it to a middle school level. What we knew going into it was, by the time they're in high school, they've already made up their minds. So, we knew in order to be proactive, we needed to reach them at a middle school level. We just didn't realize it was even younger than that in some cases."
This is why they recently tweaked their presentations to also include elementary age kids.
While there was some reservations initially about introducing this information to young kids, Hutchings says more school officials are on board with the idea considering the recent statistics.
"We are dealing with kids as young as fifth grade, who have been identified by school administrators as vaping at school," admits the Face2Face director. "So, if they're using it to the degree where they're using it in school at 5th grade, chances are they may have started with it even younger than that."
Parents going to these education nights with their kids can help, but Kids Escaping Drugs also recommends that you call your pediatrician immediately, if your kid is vaping and possibly addicted to nicotine.
Your child's doctor will be the one to guide you through cessation options, which is lacking for kids under the age of 18.
Nicotine gum and patches aren't recommended for use by those under the age of 18. There is a nicotine inhaler, listed on the New York State Smokers Quitline website which can be administered to teens as young as 14, but there are a number of considerations listed.
Hutchings is just one of a number of local health and education leaders advocating for more research into cessation options for kids.
The first meeting is Thursday, February 21 at 5:30 p.m. It's a 60-minute program. A second meeting has been scheduled for March 13 at 5:30 p.m.
If your family would like to participate, call 716-827-9462 to RSVP.
WATCH 2 On Your Side Original series of reports on youth vaping: