Vaping is rising among teenagers and e-cigarette devices can be small and cost less than $20.

Schools clear the air and rules on vaping: Don’t do it

Paulding joins other districts cracking down on rise of e-cigarettes among middle and high school students

The surge in vaping among adolescents and teens is pushing school districts to toughen their stance. Paulding County just issued a notice to parents about new penalties for students caught with the popular e-cigarettes.

Vaping is the inhaling and exhaling of vapors produced by the heated nicotine liquid of an electronic cigarette or vape pen. It’s become a major problem nationwide among middle and high school students, who, while too young to vape legally, are still increasingly sneaking nicotine hits in school. The minimum age to purchase cigarettes, vaping devices and other tobacco products is 18.

Paulding is not alone in its crackdown.

In May, the Cherokee County school board approved an updated student discipline code with zero-tolerance policy for vaping, especially if the devices contain marijuana-derived THC oil. Students risk suspension, reassignment to an alternative school or expulsion.

"Students and their parents need to understand that vaping is dangerous: Short-term, you can overdose and suffer serious resulting health problems or death; long-term, you can damage your brain and lungs ... and maybe worse, as too little research has been done,” said Cherokee Superintendent Brian V. Hightower

Vaping is touted as a less dangerous alternative to tobacco and a way for smokers to ease their way into quitting. But, as Johns Hopkins warns:

Nicotine is the primary agent in both regular cigarettes and e-cigarettes, and it is highly addictive. It causes you to crave a smoke and suffer withdrawal symptoms if you ignore the craving. Nicotine is also a toxic substance. It raises your blood pressure and spikes your adrenaline, which increases your heart rate and the likelihood of having a heart attack.

Despite being marketed as a cessation tool for addicted smokers, e-cigarettes found a fan base among teens, as many as 40 percent of whom had never smoked tobacco.

There is a reason for the kid appeal. The liquid nicotine is often mixed with flavoring favored by younger people. Juul, an e-cigarette that resembles a flash drive, comes in mango, strawberry lemonade and watermelon. 

A Juul starter kit with flavors like Mango and Creme Brulee.
Photo: AJC File

(Didn’t we learn our lesson after the alcohol industry enticed and won over teen drinkers with sweet, fizzy and fruity products? Like e-cigarette makers are now saying, the beverage industry swore their lemonade and sugary products targeted an adult market, despite the obvious underage appeal.)

The challenge for schools is that vaping is easy to disguise. As Fulton County school board member Katie Reeves said at a public meeting in late May, students can conceal the vapes in the folds of their hoodies.

"The teacher turns around, the room smells like strawberries and nobody knows the difference, it dissipates really fast," said Reeves. "This is just a Herculean and impossible task for our schools to stay on top of. They're losing the battle right now."

The AJC’s Arlinda Broady reported a few weeks ago:

Georgia Department of Education data from the 2017-2018 school year shows that statewide vaping by students as young as sixth grade increased dramatically over the previous year while cigarette use increased by about a third. And the top districts by size in metro Atlanta (Gwinnett, Cobb, DeKalb, Fulton, Clayton and APS respectively) show a combined increase in vaping of almost half, with an even bigger increase in Atlanta Public Schools.

Late last year when Surgeon General Jerome Adams issued a rare advisory, the fourth in 10 years from his office, he said, "I am officially declaring e-cigarette use (vaping) among youth an epidemic in the United States." That was a day after a University of Michigan study found the proportion of high school seniors who reported vaping nicotine in the past month had doubled, to more than one in five, in 2018. All told, about 1.3 million more adolescents were vaping in 2018, the researchers said.

Citing a significant rise in the use of vaping devices by both middle and high school students during the past school year, Paulding sent this note to parents.

During the 2018-2019 school year, we had several student related offenses involving marijuana or THC that resulted in student disciplinary action in Paulding County schools. Many of these offenses were directly related to vaping. Too often in our schools, student vaping has led to medical emergencies where, in some cases, students had to be transported to local hospitals. 

In addition to the potential health risks, it is illegal for students under the age of 18 to use vaping devices or to purchase vaping materials. It is also against school district policy for students to vape or to bring the devices or materials to school. Please be aware that the Paulding County School District will apply the following consequences to our middle school and high school students for possession of a vaping device. These policy changes will be effective immediately. 

These consequences align with Regulation JD-R (3) middle and high school code of conduct. 

STUDENT POSSESSION OF ANY VAPING DEVICE WILL RESULT IN THE FOLLOWING CONSEQUENCES: 

1st Offense: 5 days out-of-school suspension. 

2nd Offense: 10 days out-of-school suspension. 

3rd Offense: 10 days out-of-school suspension and recommendation for long-term suspension or expulsion. 

Please note that a vaping device with THC or any other type of illegal drug is a level 3 discipline offense which will result in a 1st offense minimum consequence of 10 days out-of-school suspension, which could also include a recommendation for long-term suspension/expulsion. 

Parents, please talk with your children at home about the potential health-related dangers of vaping and these newly implemented consequences for bringing vaping devices to school. 

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About the Author

Maureen Downey
Maureen Downey
Maureen Downey has written editorials and opinion pieces about local, state and federal education policy since the 1990s.
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