A new study backs the establishment of school rules to increase staff knowledge of and intervention in student e-cigarette usage, but advises that training on such policies is required to improve their effectiveness.
On March 16, 2022, Minal Patel of the Schroeder Institute at the Truth Initiative in Washington, D.C., and colleagues will publish their findings in the open-access journal PLOS ONE.
Adolescent e-cigarette usage was labeled an epidemic by the US Surgeon General in 2018, citing a dramatic increase in use in previous years.
Federal policies prohibit cigarette use in federally funded schools, while states, local governments, and individual schools set their own policies on e-cigarette usage at school. Few research have looked into the effects of such policies thus far.
Dr. Patel and colleagues reviewed survey responses from 1,480 teachers and administrators who worked in US middle and high schools in November and December 2018 to better clarify the situation. Staff were asked to report on their school’s e-cigarette policy and training, as well as their experiences with putting them in place.
The majority of employees said their schools had enacted e-cigarette rules, but only around half said they had been instructed on them. Fewer than half of those polled were able to recognize an image of a JUUL device, the most popular e-cigarette at the time.
However, staff who reported having e-cigarette policies at their schools had a higher chance of detecting a JUUL device than those who did not, and those who reported getting policy training had an even higher chance of recognizing a JUUL device than those who did not.
Furthermore, staff from schools with e-cigarette policies were more likely than staff from schools without policies to report intervention on student e-cigarette use, whether it was communicating with students about avoiding such devices or reporting that students had been detected using such devices on school property. Again, employees who had received e-cigarette policy training were more likely to report intervention.
In keeping with previous research, this study implies that school e-cigarette policies may be insufficient unless they are accompanied by measures to train staff on how to apply them, including encouraging ongoing awareness of the changing landscape of e-cigarette products.
Although less than half of surveyed middle- and high-school teachers and administrators could recognize an image of JUUL as an e-cigarette at the height of its popularity, those who worked in schools with e-cigarette policies and had received training on those policies were more likely to recognize e-cigarettes and intervene on student e-cigarette use, according to the authors.
Only 30% of those with policies got training on their school’s e-cigarette policy, indicating a crucial gap in preventing juvenile use of e-cigarettes. As a result, we’ve created resources such as a curriculum and a text message cessation program, as well as advice for how to address tobacco use among students in the classroom. More materials and information can be found here.”