On the Telluride School Board, I’ve had the unique advantage of viewing some community issues like smoking rooms and vaping in the context of our youth and schools. My comments here don’t reflect the views of the board, only my own.

At a recent Town Council public comment session, I was one of the few who spoke against Telluride opting to allow hospitality rooms for smoking marijuana in town. In the big picture, what does that say we value as a community, especially since youth vaping in our town is nearly double the national average. Like those at the public comment session, I want to ensure vaping is added to the conversation about smoking.  

In this community, our schools have been leading the battle against vaping with education, disciplinary measures that include positive student-driven solutions and programs to help our kids with addiction. After two years, our schools believe they’re making an impact, and will soon learn how much of an impact when our youth participate in another Healthy Kids survey next month, which is administered by the state Department of Public Health every two years.

But just because vaping involves our youth doesn’t mean that schools are solely responsible for solutions. The issue and solutions are larger than our schools, especially when most vaping occurs off campus and outside of the school hours. It’s time to turn to our town and county. Other resorts such as Aspen and Summit County have passed laws to increase the legal age for tobacco use, as Aspen recently passed an ordinance that will effectively ban vaping flavors, beginning Jan. 1. Schools can’t do that, but local governments can and do. Local governments are afforded broad discretion when it comes to the public good (think plastic bag bans).

Our schools prepare our youth for college and the workforce. They provide a solid academic footing, and according to recent data, our high school is doing the best job in the state. Our schools teach skills such as inquiry and analysis, civic engagement, strong character, leadership, perseverance, and resilience. Informed and educated, our students are equipped to make good choices when they leave our campus and town.

If we don’t want our youth falling victim to the “cool Juul” with its rush of cotton candy-flavored blend of toxic chemicals, then let’s ensure our community is at the forefront of changing e-cigarette laws instead of allowing smoking rooms. Let’s use the very skills we teach our kids at school to ensure change in our community.  

Although there’s more to be done about the vaping crisis, schools can’t do it all. It quite literally will take a village.

Stephanie Hatcher

Telluride School Board president