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MILTON

The revival of an inactive youth organization could help combat the growing popularity of vaping among Milton School District students, officials say.

The school district is looking for volunteers to restart the Milton Youth Coalition.

The coalition would not be run by the school district, but some district officials are working to revive it, said Verlene Orr, a district social worker.

In a presentation to the school board last week, Orr and other members of the district’s student services department said recent data from the Youth Risk Behavior Survey shows that youth vaping is a growing trend.

Nearly one-fourth of Milton High School students who responded to the survey said they had used a vape device or e-cigarette in the last 30 days.

Compared to the state average, Milton has 13.2% more students who admitted vaping in the last 30 days, the survey shows.

As of March 1, the high school has reported 19 tobacco and six drug athletic code violations, which include violations for vaping. Milton Middle School in that time has reported four tobacco and five drug violations, according to the presentation.

Concerns about vaping have increased over the last five years. The first vaping violation at the high school occurred in 2014, said Tara Huber, associate principal.

Milton is not the only district dealing with the issue, said Jeremy Bilhorn, Milton High School principal. He said vaping is a topic of conversation at his monthly meetings with principals from the Badger Conference.

Last year, The Gazette reported on Evansville High School’s efforts to quash vaping in its schools. They included posting signs around schools, having staff members check bathrooms for vaping and pushing for a city ordinance prohibiting anyone younger than 18 from buying or possessing vapor products.

Other Rock County coalitions— Janesville Mobilizing 4 Change, Building a Safer Evansville, Youth 2 Youth for Change and Healthy Edgerton—are already working on vaping prevention and awareness, Orr said.

The Milton Youth Coalition was started in 2010 by late Milton police Lt. John Conger, said Jerry Schuetz, district director of administrative operations.

The coalition comprised local leaders from the school district, police department, city and other organizations, Schuetz said.

For years, it focused primarily on anti-bullying efforts because Youth Risk Behavior Survey data showed that bullying was the greatest concern among youth.

The group has not been active for the last couple of years, Schuetz said, but still it has a couple of hundred dollars in a bank account for whoever wants to revive it.

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Vaping started as an alternative to cigarette smoking for adults, but it can be harmful and addictive for teenagers and children, Dan Beardmore, a pediatrician at SSM Health St. Mary’s Hospital-Janesville, has told The Gazette.

Children who vape are at an increased risk of using cigarettes or marijuana in the future, Beardmore said.

About 70% of vape juice contains diacetyl, a chemical that can scar air sacs in the lungs. The chemical once was used in microwave popcorn before its harmful effects were known, according to a district presentation.

Some vape juices also contain low levels of formaldehyde, a colorless, strong-smelling gas used in building materials and other products, according to the presentation.

Milton School District officials will be reviewing the health curriculum for next year, and staff will consider increasing vaping education and addressing why young people use substances, Orr said.

The district has applied for a grant to pay for an alcohol, tobacco and other drug abuse coordinator to focus on youth substance use, Schuetz said.

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Reporter - Milton, Edgerton, Albany, Brodhead, Evansville, Footville, Orfordville, health