In Virginia County, Learning to Drive Means Learning the Dangers of Vaping

TEENAGERS AT PUBLIC schools in a Virginia county who want to legally drive have to learn about the dangers of vaping before they get behind the wheel.

Loudoun County Public Schools partnered with the county sheriff’s department at the beginning of the school year to add the new component to its mandatory driver’s education seminar. Loudoun County Sheriff Mike Chapman told The Washington Post his office has never included warnings about substance misuse in its driver’s ed program for schools since at least 2012, when he became sheriff.

The plan to add the anti-vaping information arose shortly after the state enacted a law making it illegal for those under 21 years old to buy e-cigarettes.

“People need to understand the consequences,” Chapman told the Post.

The initiative has been incorporated into the county’s “Partners for Safe Teen Driving” driver’s education presentation – a 90-minute traffic safety program required for teens who want to drive as well as their parents or guardians in the Northern Virginia jurisdictions of ArlingtonFairfaxLoudoun and Prince William counties and the cities of AlexandriaFairfaxFalls ChurchManassas and Manassas Park.

Ashley L. Merianos, an associate professor at the University of Cincinnati who studies public health education, called the effort a “novel way to go” and told the Post she didn’t know of any other school district pairing vaping warnings with driver’s ed.

It’s part of a larger effort by the Loudoun County school system to increase education of and curb vaping among students, with topics being broached with students as young as those in second grade, reported in October.

“They’re starting to talk about healthy decision-making, the harm and risk associated with tobacco, nicotine and other substances just briefly,” Jennifer Wall, supervisor of student assistance services for Loudoun County Public Schools, told WTOP.