Whenever the words “child care” have been uttered in this community over the past several months, the reference has been in relation to Crookston’s severe shortage of licensed child care slots, whether we’re talking about home daycares or larger child care centers.

    Reducing that shortage has been identified as perhaps the greatest challenge facing those charged with leading this community.

    Well, maybe, when it comes to child care and caring for our children, convincing them to not vape should be high on the priority list as well.

    Crookston resident Marcia Meine, who has stood at more than one podium at more than one meeting of the school board or city council over the years to voice her concerns about this issue or that, spoke to the school board last week about students vaping at Crookston High School, especially junior high students. Specifically, Meine said some parents had voiced concerns to her about inconsistent follow-up and discipline when kids are caught vaping at the high school.

    The latter concern doesn’t seem possible. If you’re a student at the high school and you’re caught vaping on school property, you have to suffer the consequences, right? Several students at CHS in recent years, from academic all-stars to kids who struggle in the classroom, from talented student-athletes to kids who don’t participate in any activities, have been caught vaping and punished.

    So let’s move on from that specific concern and keep our focus on what really matters: Thanks to Big Tobacco’s insanely good and effective marketing strategies, electronic cigarettes are available in cool-looking, sleek devices and in a variety of colors, the product burned and resulting vapor smell fruity and delicious, and, most critically important of all, the kids just love it.

    Perhaps even more amazing, although Big Tobacco is prohibited from airing commercials on TV for traditional cigarettes, they are permitted to air commercials featuring people who once smoked traditional cigarettes but have since changed to e-cigs, presumably because they’re safer and less detrimental to their overall and future health.

    Forget the fact that the contents of your typical vaping device contain way more nicotine than a traditional cigarette, we’re simply expected to believe that if you vape, you’re only filling your lungs with wonderful water vapor.

    Responding to Meine’s comments, Crookston School District Superintendent Jeremy Olson said, and rightly so, that youth vaping isn’t just a “school problem,” it’s a “community problem.” So, while students getting caught vaping on school property and punished probably results in some level of reduced vaping from that point on, it doesn’t mean all of the kids are going to stop vaping entirely. They’re simply going to be more careful. After all, it’s possible they’re addicted to nicotine, and a little punishment isn’t going to reduce their desire to get their fix.

    Olson also mentioned that the community needs to work together to make kids aware of how “dangerous” vaping is. While it’s an admirable goal, you can bet the vast majority of the kids who vape know they aren’t doing their bodies and their long-term health any favors by partaking in the activity. They’re kids, they’re rebellious, and they think they’re invincible, so they’re going to do things from time to time that are not good for them. And they’re especially going to partake in activities that the adults in their lives implore them not to partake in because they’re dangerous.

    It’s on us – parents, teachers, school administrators, community leaders – to stick to the facts and be level-headed and straightforward when we’re forced to deal with this massive vaping problem with the young people in our lives.

    Yes, they’re breaking the law and violating school policy, so if they’re caught they must face the consequences. But this is a health issue, a long-term health issue, with no short-term elixirs. We need to all be in for the long haul.