Town hall addresses dangers of vaping, underage drinking

  • Vaping
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District Attorney Seth Banks, center, talks as Health-e-Schools Medical Director Dr. Steve North, right, and Talk It Out NC ambassador Joe Marks, left, listen Tuesday, Nov. 19, during a town hall meeting about vaping and underage drinking at Mitchell High School. (MNJ/Brandon Roberts)

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LEDGER – The Mitchell Yancey Substance Abuse Task Force and Appalachian Youth to Youth Tuesday, Nov. 19, hosted the “Mitchell County Communities Talk Town Hall on Vaping and Underage Drinking” in the Kathy Miller Auditorium at Mitchell High School. 

The event offered an opportunity to learn more about current substance use trends among youth, to learn more about how teenage use negatively impacts health and to discover ways to start the conversation about these dangers with young people.

A panel of local youth, law enforcement, health professionals and others addressed the topics of vaping and underage drinking in Mitchell County and responded to community concerns and questions.  

Nearly 100 people attended the Mitchell County Town Hall on underage drinking and vaping, and those in attendance were given a survey and 97 percent of respondents said they learned something at the Town Hall they would share with others.

Panelist and Health-e-Schools Medical Director Dr. Steve North said vaping is a serious problem among the area’s youth, and the problem is confounded by the fact it is relatively new. 

“We are just beginning to know the health consequences of vaping,” North said, “and we don’t know anything about the long-term consequences. In West Virginia last week, there was an overdose because vape juice was laced with heroin. You can’t trust what’s really in it.”

Partners Aligned Toward Health Prevention Specialist Bryan Austin said the substance produced by vapes is not vapor, but an aerosol.

“There is secondhand vape,” Austin said. “Plus, that aerosol contains not only nicotine but lead, copper and other metals. Is the typical high school student aware of these dangers?”

Mitchell County Sheriff’s Deputy and School Resource Officer Justin Biddix said he had found vapes on lots of students at Mitchell High School.

“Most of the students I find vapes on aren’t old enough to buy them,” Biddix said. “My first question is always, ‘How did you get this?’ Most of the students are forthcoming with information. I ask them how frequently they use it, and we always check the content of the vape. I know of students who have passed out and needed medical attention, and their parents were unaware they were even doing it.”

The panelists then addressed underage drinking in the community, and District Attorney Seth Banks said there are efforts in Raleigh address underage drinking and the distribution of alcohol to minors, and Mitchell County Sheriff Donald Street said he knows of instances when students have come to school under the influence of alcohol.

North said he has worked with underage alcoholics, and there is a correlation between their drinking, mental health issues and depression. He said alcoholism is about 50 percent genetics and 50 percent environment.

After the discussion, the panel answered questions from the audience.