JOHNSON CITY/KINGSPORT (WJHL) The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) is calling vaping a national epidemic, targeting children as young as 13.
Preliminary government data shows in 2017, more than three million middle school and high school students across the country reported using e-cigarettes.
E-cigarettes have been advertised to be a less harmful substitute for smoking cigarettes. Local school officials and law enforcement are saying it has gotten a grip on students as young as the elementary age, and now they are trying to find new ways to deter students from using the addictive drug, especially while on school campuses.
“They’re actually brave enough to smoke in front of staff members,” Johnson City School resource officer, Sergeant Lorrie Goff said.
She wants students to understand the dangers of vaping.
“I don’t think they want to hear the message yet. They are so caught up in wanting to fit in, and the different flavors, I mean you can get flavors in everything from bubblegum to vanilla,” Sgt. Goff said.
She recalled a time when she was in school, smoking was allowed but it was later found out the habit caused serious health problems.”Then we had the famous dip being advertised as a less harmful substitute. Research later on found that dip causes certain kinds of cancer,” she said.
Sgt. Goff said smoking e-cigs is no different from using tobacco products.
“Now, e-cigs in 2019 are being advertised as a elast harmful option. I don’t know what the data’s going to show. I think it may take a while. What I do know is that all three of them have nicotene in them and nicotene has been used as a pesticide for centuries,” Sgt. Goff said.
Several school districts in our area have rules against vaping on campus.
“Under the age of 18 at the high school, for instance, they would receive a smoking citation, as well as a day of in school suspension. The device is confiscated and that is actually turned into authorities,” Kingsport City Schools Assistant Superintendent Andy True said.
Sgt. Added, “When we refer to juvenile court, we actually arrest them by citation. They go into juvenile court and it is an informal disposition. They would go before a probation officer, complete classes. They would write papers, it was drug/tobacco education.”
We reached out to various local schools about the number of on-campus incidents reported in the 2018-2019 school year, and here is what we received:
Bristol Virginia Public Schools: 4
Johnson City Schools: 52
Kingsport City Schools: 125
Sullivan County Schools: 134
Now, districts have implemented curriculum to educate students about the dangers of vaping.
True said, “Nicotine is invovled. We want to avoid a generation of students having addictions to nicotine. This is a way we can help to instill those kind of healthy behavior in students at that developmental age.”
One Tri-Cities principal is taking it to the extreme to deter his students getting a hold of an e-cig by making a deal with his students; he’ll get a tattoo of the school mascot if his students have a high graduation and attendence rate this year.
“I want a 96% graduation rate, 96% attendance rate, and I don’t want to have to deal with any zero tolerance or vaping incidents during thje school year,” Principal Andy Hare with Sullivan East High School (Johnson City Schools) said.
Hare said he knows this might be a difficult task compared to years past.
“I just want the best for our kids and don’t want them to do things that can harm them,” Principal Hare said. “If it means me getting a tattoo to get them safe, then it’s well worth it.”
School officials want students to understand there is no smoking allowed on campus whether you are of age or not.
Studies on vaping can be found here: