The numbers are stark. In the last year, vaping among students in high school increased 78 percent nationally from 2017 to 2018, according to the FDA\u2019s Center for Tobacco Products. Now, more than 20 percent of high school students have used e-cigarettes. The number of lung injuries caused by vaping has risen to 2,290 in the U.S. as of Nov. 20, an increase of 118 cases from the previous week, according to the Centers for Disease Control. The CDC also reported 47 confirmed deaths in 25 states and the District of Columbia. It\u2019s a national problem but it has local implications as those who attended a forum on vaping on Nov. 21 discovered. The event, held at Trackside Teen Center, was presented by state Reps. Gail Lavielle (R-143) and Tom O\u2019Dea (R-125). A panel of experts and students from Wilton and New Canaan offered their thoughts on what has become a health crisis. An e-cigarette works with a battery. It often contains a cartridge of liquid nicotine, flavorings and other chemicals \u2014 including propylene glycol (antifreeze) and vitamin E acetate \u2014 that are converted into a mist the user inhales into their lungs. Some contain THC, the psychoactive compound of marijuana. According to the National Institute on Drug Abuse, there are more than 460 e-cigarette brands available. Dr. Alicia Briggs, interim chair of Norwalk Hospital\u2019s Department of Pediatrics, said many teens \u201cthink vaping is less harmful than cigarettes. That is not the truth.\u201d She said teens are suffering long-term lung injury and vitamin E acetate is one of the most likly culprits. The acetate, she said, is a thickening agent in e-cigarettes that contain THC and when vaped into the lungs can cause direct damage. Wilton High School student body president Rishabh Raniwala said he knows a lot of kids who \u201care aware of the dangers but choose to do it anyway because they think it\u2019s not addictive.\u201d He said he believes vaping is becoming more prevalent among younger children and he\u2019s heard of students as young as those in elementary school vaping. Theo Kammerer, Rishabh\u2019s counterpart at New Canaan High School, said his main concern is the addictive quality of e-cigarettes and that \u201ca lot of kids start because their friends are doing it\u201d and then they can\u2019t quit. That is the belief Wilton High School Principal Robert O\u2019Donnell wants to quash. \u201cThe message I would like to send,\u201d he said, is that rumors that \u201ceveryone is doing it \u2014 is not the case. We need to provide support for the kids who say \u2018I am not doing that.\u2019\u201d Genevieve Eason, representing the Wilton Youth Council, said her organization is seeking to help students and parents understand the harm that can be done and where to go for help. To that end, the council is offering two opportunities for the community to learn more at a talk by Elizabeth Jogensen of Insight Counseling called \u201cVaping: What You Need to Know.\u201d Students in middle and high school, parents of children of all ages and other concerned adults are invited to attend one of two programs: \u00a0Wednesday, Dec. 11, 7-8:30 p.m., at Trackside Teen Center, 21 Station Road. Register at https:\/\/vapingwhatyouneedtoknow.eventbrite.com. \u00a0Wednesday, Jan. 15, 10-11:30 a.m., at Wilton Library, 137 Old Ridgefield Road. Register at www.wiltonlibrary.org\/events or call 203-762-6334. Jorgensen was one of the panelists at Thursday\u2019s discussion and said kids are exposed to ads for e-cigarettes through social media sites such as Instagram and entertainment websites. They falsely tell young people that vaping is not dangerous like tobacco cigarettes, she said. However, one pod from the manufacturer Juul can contain as much nicotine as 20 regular cigarettes. Those most at risk of becoming addicted to vaping, she said, are young people suffering from anxiety or depression. Nicotine, she reminded the audience, is the oldest form of anxiety relief. These students have a more difficult time quitting than those who are doing it for social reasons, she said. A woman in the audience asked what parents can do to help their child. Speaking in general terms, Jorgensen said, \u201cTry not to have a punitive approach when you find the devices. The more matter of fact you are, the better it goes.\u201d She said it is more productive to focus on why they are doing it rather than who they are doing it with. That, she said, is irrelevant, since they can get the e-cigarettes in school, at gas stations and online. Parents, she said, should ask their child why they vape and if they\u2019ve tried to stop. \u201cIt wouldn\u2019t hurt to get an assessment, because what you are looking for is underlying anxiety or depression,\u201d she said. \u201cKids are often happy to quit vaping because they\u2019re chained to it.\u201d New Canaan success Among the panelists were New Canaan Superintendent of Schools Bryan Luizzi and New Canaan High School Principal William D. Egan. Both said vaping was a huge problem \u201cThree to four years ago, we\u2019d find Juul pods all over,\u201d Egan said, adding there have been few this year. \u201cI think the national crisis has sparked alarm in kids.\u201d He explained that students have made PSAs in their classes and he believes they have been effective in reducing the problem in school. \u201cI have never seen a repeat suspension for vaping,\u201d he said. \u201cIt\u2019s truly about the kids owning the problem and turning the tide to where we\u2019re starting to gain.\u201d Theo Kammerer agreed, saying teens don\u2019t want to listen to authority, but now that \u201cthere\u2019s cold hard evidence it\u2019s harmful \u2026 it\u2019s a lot more real.\u201d Nina Rutherford of Wilton Youth to Youth liked the idea of the PSAs. \u201cWhen you make it yourself it\u2019s more meaningful,\u201d she said. Kevin Smith, Wilton\u2019s superintendent of schools, said he would like to see a broad public awarness campaign aimed at children. He asked what resources the state legislature can provide. \u201cIn terms of an all-out campaign, funds in that direction would be significantly powerful,\u201d he said. He also suggested banning the flavored packets or taxing them so heavily they are prohibitively expensive for young people. Earlier this year, the legislature passed Public Act 19-13 which became effective Oct. 1 and increases the legal smoking age from 18 to 21 for cigarettes, other tobacco products and e-cigarettes. It also increases penalties for those selling to underage buyers. Wilton Police Chief John Lynch said officers know the people who work at gas stations and other places where e-cigarettes are sold and they stop in from time to time. \u201cCompliance is always an issue,\u201d he said, adding his department will contact the state to schedule compliance checks. Information on how to help a young person stop vaping or smoking may be found at teen.smokefree.gov and quitnow.net. State Rep. Gail Lavielle may be reached at Gail.Lavielle@housegot.ct.gov. State Rep. Tom O\u2019Dea may be emailed at Tom.Odea@housegopct.gov. Both can be reached at 800-842-1423.