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Thursday, February 20, 2020

On Tuesday, Jan. 7, TABC held an educational program for both students and parents on the dangers of vaping, with guest speaker James Sarto. During the presentations—for students during the day and for the adults at night—open discussion concerned the rise of drug use among teens nationally, concealed vape carrying in schools and in the home and the growing concern surrounding these products’ harmful effects. Sarto also focused on emerging drug trends and products, and how easy it has become for teens to get their hands on them in the digital age.

One statistic shared was that, according to recent national studies, one out of four high school students across the country vapes regularly. Students and parents alike were encouraged to ask questions, gain understanding and keep the discussion going at home.

Sarto has worked in public education for 40 years, and has been committed to spreading awareness about teen drug use—especially in schools—and its effects. He’s spoken at schools and at many public events, and always encourages open discussions regarding the national epidemic of increased vape use and abuse. As he sees it, a major step towards fixing this issue is helping the public to recognize its severity.

The presentation shed light on the reality of what teen drug use has become in the U.S. today. While many would assume that places like bathrooms or empty stairwells would be where teens vape during school days, Sarto believes that it occurs inside the classroom as well. Sarto shared that, in fact, some kids start vaping as young as fifth grade. As a result, they become dependent on nicotine and are driven to continue using it into their teen years, regardless of the location.

“Kids are now waking up in the middle of the night and vaping because they’re so addicted,” Sarto added. “There’s even a thing called ‘vape tongue,’ which is when [users] lose all sensation of flavor in their tongue because of how much they’re vaping.”

The presentations were illuminating for both parents and students alike. For Rabbi Steven Finkelstein, TABC’s director of guidance, they were important in starting a more open conversation regarding the national trends and how they impact our own Jewish community. During an interview with The Jewish Link, he elaborated on his reaction to Sarto’s presentation, and also discussed why he feels programs such as these are so vital.

“The main takeaway, for me, was the fact that you can’t know everything,” Rabbi Finkelstein shared. “But the more information you have, the better informed you will be, as parents, to engage in meaningful conversations with your children, and as teens you will be prepared to make healthy and informed decisions. As a yeshiva it is our responsibility to educate our student and parent body and to equip them to deal with challenges and dangers. Presentations like Mr. Sarto’s create a great opening to conversations. Mr. Sarto really pushed the students to ask themselves how much they really know and how much they don’t know regarding the hidden dangers of vaping, and we hope this will lead to smarter decision making in the future.”

If you or someone you know is struggling with drug use and requires immediate help, call the National Helpline at 1-800-662-HELP (4357).


Adam Samuel is a journalist from Teaneck. He blogs at www.adamssoapbox.com