BOULDER, Colo. -- A total of 48 people nationwide have died from severe lung illness linked to vaping, as new studies show teens are using vaping devices in record numbers. Some schools in Boulder, however, are trying a revolutionary new program to educate students on the dangers that come with vaping.
Fairview High School is one of a handful of schools implementing the new program aimed at curving vaping. If a student gets caught vaping, "they don't get suspended. Instead, they attend Saturday school for four hours in the morning," said Fairview High School nurse Kim Kennedy. "In general, we want them in class, learning."
National studies show nearly a quarter of high school students have used e-cigarettes.
Kennedy said that instead of punishing them, the school now has student offenders come in on Saturday to do chores, then complete an online program called Second Chance.
"It's interactive throughout. It pledges education and even services and links for students who are seeking help to quit," said Kennedy.
She said adolescent brains continue to develop until the age of 25. While there are no long-term studies, she said the damage from vaping is undeniable. Fairview's new program highlights those dangers.
"The nicotine in vape products can rewire the brain and change the brain development. It can affect attention, memory and a lot of things -- and it's highly addictive," Kennedy said.
Student Ainsley Hutchison applauds the new policy.
"I've seen people vaping in class, in the bathrooms and stuff," she said. "This makes a lot of sense because a lot of times we just punish kids who are victims of addiction, rather than actually getting them the help that they need."
In October, Boulder raised the age to 21 to buy tobacco, and eliminated flavored vape products. Kennedy said with the law change and the education program, she's already seen a drop in vaping use at Fairview High School. She believes education is the key.
"I don't think it makes sense to continue to punish kids when, actually, they just need help and to understand the damage that it is doing to their bodies and their minds, and I think counseling is a very good way to do that."