County Executive Bellone Issues Warning: 'We Are At Risk Of A Whole Generation Of Kids Becoming Addicted To Nicotine'

NORTH BABYLON, N.Y. (CBSNewYork) — United States health officials reported in September that teenage electronic cigarette use had reached an epidemic level.

Now, leaders on Long Island are trying to change the tide with their “Vape Out” program, CBS2’s Jennifer McLogan reported Wednesday.

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Suffolk County will soon partner with four school districts — North Babylon, Hampton Bays, Port Jefferson and Bayport-Blue Point — in an urgent attempt to stem the rising tide of e-cigarette use among school children.

“We saw over four-year period a 900 percent spike in kids vaping,” Suffolk County Executive Steve Bellone said. “We are at risk of a whole generation of kids becoming addicted to nicotine. This is a public health crisis. What we are focused on is the schools, collaborating with them, because this is where the kids are doing this now.”

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Vaping, e-cigarettes

Suffolk County lawmakers are partnering with four school districts on a program design to deter teenage e-cigarette use. (Photo: CBS2)

Administrators are asking county health officials for clarity and help in dealing with record numbers of students vaping on school grounds. CBS2’s McLogan spoke with middle schoolers about their fears during the first week of school.

“It’s just kind of scary thinking about how, like, one day we’re going to get peer pressure to do it, but we don’t want to,” one girl said. “So we think it’s a good idea to prevent it at a young age.”

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Peer-to-peer counseling, parent forums and e-cigarette education as an alternative to school suspension are all part of the Vape Out program.

Glen Eschbach is the superintendent of the North Babylon School District.

“It really helps them think about the behavior, not as something punishable, but as something that affects their health for the rest of their lives,” Eschbach said.

Students echoed that sentiment.

“I’m not going to try it because I don’t know what’s in there,” North Babylon High School sophomore Gregory Johnson said. “I don’t want to mess up my body. I am an athlete.”

“Young kids, they are doing it just to ‘follow’ people, to get attention. They don’t understand that nicotine in e-cigarettes is very addictive,” sophomore Salomon Chery added.

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Suffolk’s vaping program kicks off next week.