ROME, Ga. — Two firefighters in the Rome-Floyd County Fire Department are going school to school to share the dangers of vaping - and getting students as young as second grade to turn in their vapes.
Shasta Farrer and Linda Patty began planning the program back in August, they said, and started rolling it out to schools in Floyd County in February.
They've been to 22 schools so far, starting with fifth graders and then expanding it through elementary schools and up to middle and high schools - and the impact has been staggering.
"The schools that we go to, we talk to the administrators first, and also the school resource officers, and we have an agreement with them that while we're teaching we actually give an opportunity at the end of class where if students want to turn in their electronic cigarettes they can with no punishment," Farrer told 11Alive's Dalia Perez. "We've had several students who have turned them in because during the class they actually learned the real ingredients in them and they no longer want to have anything to do with them, so it's been a really great program so far."
Farrer recently posted to her Facebook about the program.
"If you haven’t walked into a middle or high school lately, then you have no idea at what our youth are being faced with on a daily basis," she wrote. "The administrators at the schools are spending up to 80% of their time dealing with 'vape' issues, and it’s absolutely ridiculous. 'Vapes' are being taken away from 2nd graders. (Yes, you read that correctly.. 2nd grade babies!)"
She wrote that with the program, "eyes are being opened and the truth is now being taught inside middle and high schools."
The firefighters got certified with the Catch My Breath program and took courses with the CDC and Discovery Health before putting their program in place in Floyd County schools. Patty told 11Alive that she and Farrer have really felt like the program has become "bigger than we thought it would."
"Principles, teachers, they're busy - when they can start contacting us and asking for the program, that's when we know it's hit somewhere out there where it needs to be," she said. "That's what's happened. Right now it's a sad situation that it's needed, but we're glad we can be part of maybe making the change or causing this problem to go away."
Farrer said students are learning the consequences of vape use - both the immediate consequences that can come from getting in trouble at school and with parents, and the long-term consequences with their health.
"It's such a newer item, they don't know all of the research about how it does affect your lungs down the road. We teach them everything - truth and fact-based - and it's been a really great program for sure," she said.