DIGGING DEEPER: Vaping in schools

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(KTIV) – A new epidemic is sweeping the nation.

According to 2018 National Youth Tobacco Survey, current e-cigarette use, or “vaping”, among middle and high school students increased alarmingly between 2017 and 2018, with over 3.6 million kids using e-cigarettes in 2018 alone.

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the use of e-cigarettes is unsafe for kids, teens, and young adults.

The National Institute on Drug Abuse says America’s teens report a dramatic increase in their use of vaping devices in just a single year, with 37.3 percent of 12th graders reporting “any vaping” in 2018, compared to just 27.8 percent in 2017.

“It has gone from relative obscurity two years ago, to something that we hear about every day.”

Christian Bork, Bishop Heelan Catholic Principal


The percent of 12th graders who say they vaped “just flavoring” in the past year also increased to 25.7 percent in 2018 from 20.6 percent in 2017.

Right now in order to buy tobacco products in Siouxland, including e-cigarettes, you have to be at least the age of 18.

That is the legal age for Iowa, Nebraska, and South Dakota.

Unfortunately, kids younger than that are getting their hands on them.

This is causing problems at locals schools.

Local administrators say students are vaping in schools…. some as young as 6th grade.

“Right now, vaping has just really become an issue that we hear a lot about,” said Christian Bork, Bishop Heelan High School Principal.

In 2003, the first commercially successful electronic cigarette was created in Beijing, China.

Since then, its usage is seen across the globe.

“It has gone from relative obscurity two years ago, to something that we hear about every day,” adds Bork.

Administrators say students use them in the bathrooms, and even in classrooms.

“The vapor goes away and dissipates so rapidly,” said Chris Erickson, Assistant Principal at South Sioux City Middle School. “There’s not a residual smell like you would have with a cigarette or a cigar.”

By being so small, e-cigarettes can easily be concealed by students.

“We’ve asked our teachers to be extra observant with students with hoodie sweatshirts maybe covering up their mouth,” said Erickson.

“Are they putting their heads into their windbreaker? Are they covering their mouths?” asks Bork.

While some students are vaping, others are taking up the fight to stop the epidemic.

“We as a National Honors Society know that it’s definitely not safe,” said Tavian Sanchez, a senior at Sergeant Bluff-Luton High School. “But we’re not going to be able to stop people once they’re 18 and outside of high school. But we are just trying to stop it in schools.”

The legal age to purchase an e-cigarette is 18, and online you must be 21-years-old.

But that isn’t stopping people younger from using.

“People think it’s like a culture thing,” said Sanchez. “People think it’s cool do to- the upperclassmen do it, so then people as young as freshman even start doing it.”

“We had one situation where they used a Walmart gift card, Visa card- because that was the only check that the online marketer used,” adds Erickson.



“This is your body, its the only body you’ve got,” said Officer Chad Cleveland, South Sioux City Police Department. “You don’t want to ruin it.”

Researchers say electronic cigarettes do ruin our body.

Especially in teens– for their brains are still developing.

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, most e-cigarettes contain nicotine… the addictive drug in regular cigarettes, cigars, and other tobacco products.

That nicotine can harm the developing adolescent brain- which keeps developing until about age 25.

“What’s happening with vaping is that they’re becoming addicted to nicotine,” said Joy Gonnerman, Jackson Recovery Centers Prevention Specialist. “Which they don’t know until they try to stop and go through withdrawals.”

“So that’s the first thing. Nicotine wires the brain to be addicted to other things.”

Besides nicotine, e-cigarettes can contain harmful and potentially harmful ingredients, including:
ultrafine particles that can be inhaled deep into the lungs, flavors such as diacetyl, a chemical linked to serious lung disease, volatile organic compounds, heavy metals, such as nickel, tin, and lead.

They add those whose first tobacco product was flavored are more likely to become current tobacco users than those whose first product was just tobacco-flavored.

For more information on vaping, and what you can do about the epidemic, click here.

Jennifer Lenzini

Jennifer Lenzini

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