Ocean County Prosecutor Establishes ‘Escape the Vape’ Task force

Ocean County Prosecutor Bradley D. Billhimer announced today that the Ocean County Prosecutor’s Office has partnered with RWJ Barnabas Health Institute for Prevention and Recovery, the DART Prevention Coalition, Community Medical Center, Deborah Heart and Lung Center, Ocean County Department of Human Services, Ocean County Youth Service Commission, Ocean County Health Department, Ocean County Branch of the Association of Student Assistance Professionals (ASAP NJ), and the Ocean County Association of School Administrators, to establish the Escape the Vape Task force, a county-wide coordinated response meant to take a collaborative approach in addressing the youth vaping epidemic in Ocean County.  The Task force aims to provide the Ocean County community with a multi-pronged approach to addressing vaping – education, policy change, and cessation as a comprehensive approach that is necessary to truly address this public health crisis. The Task force acknowledges and understands the importance of assisting schools in reviewing tobacco policies and connecting young people with appropriate cessation resources.

“The creation of this Task force is a direct response to the youth vaping epidemic in Ocean County. Collectively, we were all being inundated with requests to come out and speak to various groups about vaping. As we were all trying to get out there and educate the public, it became very apparent that we were overlapping in some communities. This Task force will help to streamline the message and enable us to reach a wider audience and get the facts to the kids and their parents,” Prosecutor Billhimer stated.

The 2019 Monitoring the Future Survey found that nationwide, 25.5% of 12th graders, 19.9% of 10th graders, and 9.6% of 8th graders had vaped nicotine in the past 30 days. We also continue to see a stark difference in the use of traditional tobacco products like cigarettes and the use of nicotine containing vapes.  11.7% of 12th graders reported daily nicotine vaping, with 2.4% of 12th graders reported daily smoking of cigarettes.  The use of traditional cigarettes by the young has steadily dropped over the past decades while the use of nicotine containing vapes has skyrocketed in comparison. There has also been a significant increase in youth use of vapes which contain THC oil concentrates, the psychoactive ingredient in marijuana. The Center for Disease Control (CDC) has been closely monitoring illnesses associated with vaping, now called EVALI.  As of December 27, 2019, 2561 hospitalized EVALI cases or deaths have been reported to the CDC from all 50 states, the District of Columbia, and two U.S. territories (Puerto Rico and the U.S. Virgin Islands).  55 deaths have been confirmed in 27 states and the District of Columbia. New Jersey has experienced 53 confirmed EVALI cases, 46 probable and 1 death.

Thus far, the Task force partners have trained over 1000 school personnel, 1000 community members, and 2400 youth/students.  The DART Prevention Coalition has also trained over 150 youth peer educators in the community in collaboration with school districts who are now delivering educational presentations to their peers on the dangers and risks of vaping. The Task force will run a series of Train-the-Trainer sessions to equip the community with the knowledge they need to understand the vaping epidemic and to provide this information to young people in the county.  Attendees will receive a comprehensive training guide and will walk away with the ability to educate adults or youth about vaping.  They will also receive continued support from the Task force, access to an online portal to access the presentation (a living document updated as we learn more about the epidemic), vaping fact cards for youth and parents, and information and access to cessation resources, school policy, and community programming. The first Train-the-Trainer event will occur on Friday January 24, 2020, at St. Luke’s Church, 1674 Old Freehold Road, Toms River, in conjunction with the Ocean County Children’s Interagency Coordinating Council (CIACC). 127 attendees from various community sectors are slated to attend.

For more information on vaping presentations for your community or school, please contact Abby Thompson, Youth Prevention Manager at the RWJBH Institute for Prevention and Recovery at [email protected].

For information on how to quit smoking cigarettes or vaping visit: http://rwjbh.org/nicotinerecovery

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