At the Dec. 7 Board Meeting of Questa Independent School District Maria Gonzalez, Interim Coordinator for the Vida del Norte Coalition presented findings from a “risk and resilience survey” conducted on Questa Independent School District high school students regarding substance abuse. The study focused primarily on alcohol and electronic cigarettes.
“We try to educate the kids to make sure they are not drinking and driving,” Gonzalez told the Board. “Alcohol is associated with motor vehicle crashes which are the leading cause of death in adolescents.”
Gonzalez explained how the study showed a slight decrease in alcohol use from 43 percent of students to 28 percent of students throughout the year of 2021 but revealed that they were unable to survey the 10th graders so the data may be slightly incomplete.
“We don’t know if it’s a result of what we’re doing, what the school’s doing, what parents are doing, or if it was a direct impact from COVID-19 with kids being home,” Gonzalez remarked on the decrease. “We will take the survey again in 2023.”
Electronic cigarette use (e-cigarettes or e-cigs) also showed a slight decrease from 68 percent to 58 percent. According to Gonzalez and this risk and resilience survey, e-cigarettes have become a larger phenomenon than alcohol at Questa High School. Students were also questioned on so-called perceptions of risks regarding e-cigarettes and there still remains a perception of reduced risk in e-cigarettes relative to alcohol. There is also an element of peer pressure involved in the perception of popularity around e-cigarettes. We are all familiar with the cliché, “all the cool kids are doing it.” The cigarettes are electronic now.
The United States Center for Disease Control (CDC) reports that e-cigarettes are technically safer than traditional cigarettes “but that does not mean that they are safe (CDC, https://www.cdc.gov/tobacco/basic_information/e-cigarettes/about-e-cigarettes.html, accessed 12/14/2022).”
E-cigarette aerosol contains fewer toxic chemicals than regular cigarette smoke but it is not harmless; it can be cancer-causing like regular cigarette smoke. “One question I asked [students] was, ‘was it hard to be at school and vape,’ and every single one of them said no and laughed about it,” said Gonzalez. “It’s easy to conceal, it’s not hard. They were very honest.”
The silver lining in this survey is, among students who started vaping then stopped, most of them did not miss it, which means vaping may show less of a propensity for addiction. Student athletes also showed less propensity to continue using e-cigarettes due to an effect on athletic performance. More data will be available in 2024 after the next risk and resilience survey is conducted.
A recording of the 12/07/2022 QISD Board meeting is available on the Questa del Rio News Facebook page at the following web address: https://fb.watch/hp-VN5hoBI/.