LOGANSPORT HIGH SCHOOL PRINCIPAL Matt Jones said “There has been an increase in possession and usage in vaping and vaping devices on campus. It’s definitely a national epidemic in schools, no doubt.” Tony Walters | Pharos-Tribune
LOGANSPORT HIGH SCHOOL PRINCIPAL Matt Jones said “There has been an increase in possession and usage in vaping and vaping devices on campus. It’s definitely a national epidemic in schools, no doubt.” Tony Walters | Pharos-Tribune
The number of youth using e-cigarettes, including Juul, is on the rise at area schools.

After several decades of decline in adult smoking rates, “vaping” is threatening to hook a new generation of young people on nicotine — the addictive drug in regular cigarettes, cigars and other tobacco products.

School districts in Cass County have been educating their staff and faculties on how to spot such discreet devices.

Logansport High School Principal Matt Jones echoed the surgeon general's declaration, calling the issue an epidemic.

"There has been an increase in possession and usage in vaping and vaping devices on campus," Jones said. "It's definitely a national epidemic in schools, no doubt."

JD Dubes, assistant principal of student services, said that vaping is definitely a problem, but it doesn't take up any more of the dean's or student resource officer's time than other issues.

"I don't think vaping is necessarily at the head of our disciplinary issues by any means," said JD Dubes, assistant principal of student services. "But there definitely has been an uptick in it."

Originally promoted as a safer alternative to tobacco, e-cigarettes, otherwise known as “vapes,” come in the many names — Juuls, e-cigs, vape pens, mods, tanks — however, they all share common similarities in that they have a battery, a heating element and a place to hold liquid.

Vape users inhale a vapor, or aerosol, which is produced by heating a liquid that usually contains nicotine, flavorings and other chemicals that help to make the aerosol. The liquid is commonly known as “e-juice,” “e-liquid,” “vape juice,” or “vape liquid.”

Pioneer Regional School Corporation superintendent Dr. Charles Grable said that although the issue isn’t urgent at Pioneer, they too have dealt with vaping in school. Grable mentioned that being educated on the subject is step one in addressing the issue.

Jeff Brooke, who was recently promoted from assistant principal to principal at Pioneer, has provided Juul training for Pioneer’s staff.

“I know Mr. Brooke has done some training with the staff on Juul e-cigarettes,” Grable said. “What they look like and all the different way kids can hide them. I think it’s important because of how sleek and discreet some of the designs are now.”

While scientists are still learning about the long-term health effects of vaping, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, nicotine has been found to harm the developing adolescent brain. The brain keeps developing until about age 25.

In December of 2018, the Surgeon General issued a warning on e-cigarette use among youth, declaring the mounting problem an epidemic.

“I am officially declaring e-cigarette use among youth an epidemic in the United States,” Adams said in a press release. “The recent surge in e-cigarette use among youth, which has been fueled by new types of e-cigarettes that have recently entered the market, is a cause for great concern. Now is the time to take action. We need to protect our young people from all tobacco products, including e-cigarettes.”

The advisory was prompted by the latest statistics on vaping among youths, which found that vape use among high school students increased dramatically in the past year.

The National Youth Tobacco Survey found that 20.8 percent of high school students and 4.9 percent of middle school students — over 3.6 million youth — were current e-cigarette users in 2018. From 2017 to 2018, e-cigarette use increased by an alarming 78 percent for high schoolers and 48 percent for middle schoolers.

According to the CDC, “The rise in e-cigarette use during 2017-2018 is likely because of the recent popularity of e-cigarettes shaped like a USB flash drive, such as Juul” — an e-cigarette that can be used discreetly, deliver a high dose of nicotine content and come in flavors that appeal to youths.

While CDC officials singled out Juul for fueling the epidemic, the company defended its products, saying it has taken steps to prevent young people from using them. The company has stopped distributing some flavorings to retail stores and has taken other steps to make sure young people don’t buy the devices online.

The surgeon general’s advisory calls on parents and schools to educate themselves about the variety of vaping devices and to talk with children about their dangers.

Caston School Corporation superintendent Cindy Douglas agreed that teen vaping is a concern and said that staff members at her school were provided with training materials on the matter as well.

“We brought this to the attention of all of our staff,” Douglas said. “Most were not aware of them, they had no idea what one would look like — it would be very easy to be a teacher in a classroom and a kid has one of them plugged into his computer or laptop or just laying on a desk. I know I would have just walked right by and not given it a second thought.”

Lewis Cass School Corporation superintendent Tim Garland said that it’s sometimes hard for school officials to detect vaping.

“We’ve had some issues here too but it usually only comes to our attention if it’s brought to us by another student,” Garland said. “Other than that we wouldn’t know — there’s no smell, the drug dogs won’t catch them — it’s been really hard for us to detect them unless somebody decides to let us know.”

Representatives of each local school district emphasized that they have clear language in their policies and student handbooks regarding the consequences of using or possessing a vaping device.

Though there is insufficient research on the long-term effects of vaping in general, officials say the rising trends in vaping among teens raises serious concerns that these devices could be an entryway to nicotine addiction and use of regular cigarettes for some kids.

While considerable progress has been made in reducing cigarette smoking among teens, the tobacco landscape continues to evolve and introduce new e-cigarette technology that is appealing and accessible to young people. The surgeon general's office and the CDC are urging parents and teachers to educate themselves on the different shapes and types of e-cigarettes and the risks of all forms of e-cigarette use for young people at https://e-cigarettes.surgeongeneral.gov
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