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BRUNSWICK COUNTY, N.C. — Nearly one-third of high schoolers in eastern North Carolina use tobacco products, according to a recent release of North Carolina’s 2017 Youth Tobacco Survey.

  • Over half of those smokers use e-cigarettes.
  • All Brunswick County fifth graders have to do the D.A.R.E. program.
  • Officials said to always keep an open line of communication with your children, know where they are and who they’re with.

Those statistics also reveal that over half of those smokers use e-cigarettes, rather than any other form of smoking or tobacco use like chewing tobacco.

With influences like this, school systems like Brunswick County are teaching students the dangers of smoking, but also empowering them to make their own decisions through the program D.A.R.E.

“D.A.R.E. is about decision making,” said Sgt. Holly Locklear, a school resource officer. “So, it’s giving the students, pretty much, the will to know that they have a choice to make good decisions: define, access, respond, and evaluate.”

In Brunswick County, all fifth graders have to do the program, enabling students to be more informed.

“Smoking affects not only your teeth and your breath, but all of your organs,” said Locklear. “And in our lessons we actually teach that, that it affects all your major organs.”

Deputy Director David Howard with the New Hanover County Health Department said students need to know that e-cigarettes can be just as harmful as regular cigarettes.

“The devices that deliver nicotine, other than smoking tobacco. They all do the same thing,” said Howard. “The nicotine is an addictive substance and that creates a problem where the youth, whether they are 14 or 22, has a problem quitting.”

Howard said e-cigarettes are often not regulated like traditional cigarettes. So it’s hard to know how much nicotine and toxic chemicals are actually entering the body. He warned that children can be influenced by peers and family.

“Youth will usually do what they see,” said Howard. “We see that in toddlers all the way through teenagers, and if it’s normalized in their environment, then it doesn’t seem like a danger to them.”

Locklear said to always keep an open line of communication with your children, know where they are and who they’re with.

“More than 400,000 Americans die each year from tobacco related causes,” said Locklear, “400,000 people each year and it could be prevented.”

Click here to read more on the survey.

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