Vaping puts schools on alert

Checkin’ out the halls makin’ sure the coast is clear

Lookin’ in the stalls, no, there ain’t nobody here

Oh, my buddy Fang, and me and Paul

To get caught would surely be the death of us all

Smokin’ in the boys room, yeah

Smokin’ in the boys room

Now, teacher, don’t you fill me up with your rules

But everybody knows that smokin’ ain’t allowed in school

— “Smokin’ in the Boys Room” by Brownsville Station, 1973

By Wayne E. Rivet

Staff Writer

In Maggie Thornton’s four years in SAD 61, she had two tobacco-related incidents, and they were two years apart with the same individual.

“Students report that they find smoking cigarettes disgusting and it is something they would never do,” said Thornton, Lake Region High School’s assistant principal. “Yet, they find it completely acceptable to vape.”

According to a CNN article, “the rapid spread of the fad was flagged in a 2016 report from the U.S. Surgeon General. It cited a 900% increase in e-cigarette use by high school students from 2011 to 2015, and the 2016 National Youth Tobacco Survey noted that 1.7 million high school students said they had used e-cigarettes in the previous 30 days. For middle school students, the number was 500,000.”

Even though the e-cigarette industry is less regulated than cigarettes, it is still illegal for minors under age 18 to buy vaping pens.

E-cigarettes produce an aerosol by heating a liquid that usually contains nicotine, flavorings, and other chemicals that help to make the aerosol. The liquid used in e-cigarettes often contains nicotine and flavorings. This liquid is sometimes called “e-juice,” “e-liquid,” “vape juice,” or “vape liquid.”

What do teens think is in their e-cigarette? A survey found 66% say just flavoring, 13.7% don’t know, 13.2% say nicotine, 5.8% say marijuana, and 1.3% say “other.” Manufacturers don’t have to report e-cig ingredients, so users don’t know what’s actually in them.

Users inhale e-cigarette aerosol into their lungs. Bystanders can also breathe in this aerosol when the user exhales it into the air.

Most e-cigarettes contain nicotine — the addictive drug in regular cigarettes, cigars, and other tobacco products. Studies show nicotine can harm the developing adolescent brain. The brain keeps developing until about age 25. Using nicotine in adolescence can harm the parts of the brain that control attention, learning, mood and impulse control.

“Yes, the epidemic equally affects males and females. The number of suspensions is almost split down the middle,” said Thornton after a recent presentation to the SAD 61 School Board. “Unfortunately, it is occurring everywhere. Students are able to sneak it in classes and the hallways (rare). They are predominately caught vaping in bathrooms, locker rooms and on the bus.”

LRHS had 11 suspensions for vaping in 2017–2018, and so far this school year, there have been nine suspensions. In one case, a student had an e-cigarette confiscated, but still asked Thornton if his mother could pick it up after school. “Pens” can range in price from $35 and up.

“I believe our number is higher this year because the staff is more informed, aware and vigilant,” noted Thornton, who pointed out to the school board that staff were shown e-cigarettes and some models that look like USB flash drives which are plugged into computers for charging. “I also believe that the number of students suspended will increase because we have students on our side. We have many students reporting vaping.”

Creating awareness amongst staff and students is a key to stemming the vaping tide. The district has touched base with coordinator Krista Walker of the Tobacco Prevention Program, and is in the process of developing educational programming to present to both students and parents.

“No one really knows what the long-term effects of vaping will be,” Thornton said. “We need to tackle this issue at all levels. No one is immune to this.”

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