Vaping among Iowa teens is at epidemic levels and officials with the American Lung Association are launching an effort to provide kids better access to cessation programs, support and education.

Beth Turner of Urbandale, director of health promotions for the association’s Iowa chapter, says schools can apply now to become a part of the proven intervention programs.

“Our Vape-Free Schools initiative provides school administrators and educators training to be able to offer an alternative suspension approach for students that are caught vaping, smoking or chewing on school property,” Turner says. “This also includes a voluntary vaping and tobacco cessation program for youth who are wanting to quit.”

Now more than ever, Turner says schools need support in helping students to quit tobacco products.

“We’re seeking to raise funds to give schools across the country access to these programs,” Turner says. “There’s a cost of $400 per training seat, so our goal is to raise $400,000 to serve 1,000 schools in need by the end of 2021.”

While the number of adult smokers in Iowa has remained steady or fallen slightly in recent years, the number of young people vaping and using other tobacco products is quickly rising.

“In Iowa, we see our high school tobacco use rates at an alarming 22.7%,” Turner says. “This is higher than our adult rates for smoking and we see on a national basis nearly one in five teens are vaping and close to one in four teens are using at least one tobacco product.”

One of the Lung Association’s teen smoking/vaping cessation programs is called NOT, for Not On Tobacco. The 10-session program offers teens the tools, information and support to end their addiction.