Around 80% of teens have tried vaping. Photo by Nicolette Vescovi

As the dangers of vaping make headlines, St. Joseph Medical Center addresses the issue 

By Jill Draper 

After speaking at high schools in Oak Grove and Warrensburg, a local respiratory therapist says she believes that a whopping 80% of students have tried vaping and are doing it on a regular basis. The statistics that the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reported in 2018 (20% of high school kids) are probably too low, she notes. The CDC recently announced that lung illnesses linked to vaping now total nearly 1,300, including at least 26 deaths.

“The kids are pretty well informed,” says Michelle Boucher, St. Joseph Medical Center’s new lung health coordinator. “They know that one Juul pod equals the same amount of nicotine as one pack of cigarettes.” Despite this knowledge, Boucher says some students are vaping four to five pods a week, and society must look at this trend as a new form of addiction.

Parents of teenagers and other interested members of the community are invited to a talk on vaping at 5-6 p.m. Monday, Oct. 28. The talk will be held in the medical center’s Alex George Auditorium in Building D, 1000 Carondelet Drive. Discussion topics will include how to prevent youth from vaping, how to identify common vaping and tobacco products in use, how to understand the shift from smoking to vaping, and the long-term health risks.

Even parents who think their children have not tried vaping are encouraged to attend. “It’s always better to err on the side of caution,” says Boucher, who notes that it’s not uncommon for vaping to occur in places like school restrooms and the band room.  E-cigarettes are easy to conceal, they don’t smell and they’re considered cool, she explains.

Boucher has worked for 20 years as a respiratory therapist. At St. Joseph Medical Center she guides and educates patients enrolled in the lung cancer screening program and helps navigate their follow-up care.

An rsvp for the talk is not required, but appreciated. You can reach Boucher at 816-943-4556 or A second talk probably will be scheduled later in the year for those who can’t attend. Meanwhile, parents can find valuable information on vaping at

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