Al Hradecky held the attention of fifth-grade students as they sat cross-legged on the floor in the auditorium at Balboa Elementary School, and they heard information about a rising trend — vaping.
“How many of you know people who smoke cigarettes?” Hradecky asked. More than half of the students raised their hands.
Hradecky owns Impact Canine Solutions, a company specializing in dog drug-detection services for schools, businesses and juvenile detention centers.
Three years ago, Hradecky started offering drug-prevention presentations, and he tailored them to 10-year-olds, delving into vaping.
He broke down how vape pens work, their ingredients, their effects and how they compare to cigarettes.
He said one Juul vape pod equals a pack of cigarettes, and a person, on average, consumes one or two pods a day.
Although addiction to nicotine is declining in this classroom’s age bracket, teens are rapidly embracing electronic cigarettes.
“I live in this community, and I feel like it’s an epidemic with our youth,” said Sona Arakelyan, Balboa Elementary’s principal. “Even though I have not seen [vaping] incidents at Balboa, our kids ask about it.”
She added, “I know they’re wondering what it is. I figured it’s better to warn them properly.”
Arakelyan said she wanted to offer anti-vaping information to students who are close to middle-school age, and she was aware of Impact Canine Solutions through its canine involvement in the district’s middle and high schools.
“We were one of the few schools that, through our PTA, were able to pay for the assembly last year,” said Arakelyan.
Hradecky gave presentations to some Glendale schools last year, but this is the first time Glendale Unified allocated up to $30,000 to offer anti-vape presentations to all students in middle and high schools as well as fifth- and sixth-grade students at the elementary level, according to Kristine Nam, the school district’s communications director.
When the Glendale Unified filed a lawsuit against Juul Labs Inc. this past November, school officials said vaping had increased in the district’s schools.
A government report states Juul was the most popular brand among high school students.
“Student health and safety is a top priority for [the] Glendale Unified School District. Vaping is a dangerous epidemic negatively impacting thousands of young people each year,” Nam said in a statement.
“It is vital that our students get the facts and understand the dangers of vaping,” she added.