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From the Desk of Susan London, Middle and High School Psychologist: Red Ribbon Week

  • Red Ribbon Week

    October 22-26, 2018
Susan London, Middle and High School Psychologist

Each year when I sit down to plan Red Ribbon Week (our school’s drug and alcohol prevention education program), I can’t help but reflect back on my own childhood drug and alcohol education - perhaps they were yours too! “Just Say No” and the DARE program are most salient in my memory.  Over the years, the effectiveness of both initiatives have been criticized. Sadly, the research seems to indicate that many drug and alcohol education programs are not incredibly effective as deterrents to young people. And yet, despite this disheartening finding, we still think it’s important and imperative to teach our children each year about the adverse consequences of underage drug and alcohol use.  

As I’m sure you must know by now, simply telling your child (especially your teenage child) not to do something in no way guarantees that they will refrain from doing it and is certainly not enough for the modern, sophisticated and savvy teenage brain.  We cannot just tell our children not to do something. It simply isn’t enough. We have to be educated and we have to explain the “WHY” you should not do something. This year, we have set out to explain the “WHY” of e-cigarette and vape usage with the theme, “All you need is…”. Your students have been taught a variety of facts about e-cigarette use this week. Throughout the week, students received different give-aways with an important fact (ie: Cocoa Puffs Cereal - the only Puff you need and ballpoint pens - the only pen you need). All of our middle and high school students have received, or will receive next week, the Catch My Breath e-cigarette education program which explains the “WHY” of e-cigarette use. Finally, our high school and 8th grade students attended a presentation by Mr. Raymond Estafania, the Founder and Executive Director of Family Recovery Specialists in Miami. Mr. Estafania spoke candidly with our students about e-cigarettes, marijuana and alcohol and truly dug deep into the “WHY” they should not use these substances during their teenage years. The students were extremely receptive to his message and asked thoughtful questions throughout the presentation.

I think it is also important to note that the school cannot do this work alone. We need to partner together so that our message is consistent and clear.  Our children are looking to us to learn how to live their best lives. If we are nonchalant about underage drinking and nicotine use, it is as if we are giving them the green light to experiment with such substances.  Mr. Estafania offered this advice to parents: “It’s so important for parents to get educated and not let their guard down when it comes to this. Parents need to learn of the dangers - that marijuana, nicotine and alcohol are not harmless substances.” This is perhaps why the “WHY” is as important to us as it is to our children.  We should know that the CDC found a 900% spike in youth e-cigarette use between 2011 and 2015 which made e-cigarettes the most frequently used tobacco product among youth, that e-cigarette vapor does not contain water; it’s an aerosol called e-juice which is comprised of nicotine, propylene glycol and other added chemicals used for flavoring, and that while all e-cigarettes don’t contain nicotine, 96% of e-juice does have nicotine.  If you are interested in learning more about e-cigarettes, please read the Surgeon General’s Report on E-Cigarette Use Among Youth and Young Adults.

Susan London, Psy.D., NCSP
Middle and High School Psychologist 

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