Vapes pose problems for youth
“In my 32 years, this may be the worst scourge in usage,” said Dublin ISD Superintendent Rodney Schneider. “They’re marketed so heavily as good things.”
Schneider was referring to e-cigarettes, which have started appearing at Dublin Secondary School, prompting an informational campaign aimed at students parents and the community as well as stiffer penalties for any students caught with one in hand.
“We’re catching kids in the process of using them,” Schneider said. “There seems to be a significant number of kids getting them from their parents. I’m shocked that some of the parents say they gave it to them. Others say the children took them.”
Schneider said the parents providing it probably don’t know the risks that the devices pose — particularly to youth.
Erath County Community Coalition coordinator Eric Lockwood said organizations like his are starting to become more concerned with these risks because of how many people have started using the devices, which are marketed as a safer alternative to cigarettes that can help smokers quit.
“The prevention community had done a good job at lowering smoking rates until these devices came into the market,” Lockwood said. “It’s disappointing to see the numbers go up.”
E-cigarettes operate by vaporizing water along with whatever flavor or substance is injected. Most of the liquids produced contain varying levels of nicotine and the fear is that the flavors, many of them sweet or fruity, might drive nonsmokers into trying nicotine.
“I have an associate who doesn’t call it vaping because that is an industry word,” Lockwood said. “She says to call it a nicotine delivery unit.”
Lockwood says this injection of nicotine is potentially dangerous to users younger than 25, whose brains are still developing.
“It teaches your brain to work incorrectly,” he said of nicotine’s ability to release dopamine into the brain. “It creates different pathways.”
Lockwood said the research into nicotine’s effects of developing minds has prompted some to propose legislation that would increase the legal age to purchase cigarettes and other products containing nicotine from 18 to 21.
Lockwood says the dangers don’t stop at nicotine. This is because the devices allow users to get a high concentration of whatever they decide to put in the device.
A September 2018 study by the Journal of the American Medical Association Pediatrics division reported that approximately 2.1 million American students had used an e-cigarette with a nonnicotine substance to get high.
Some of these users reported using cannabis, which Center for Disease Control and Prevention researcher Katrina Travers cited as adversely affecting learning and memory in a developing mind.
Other non-nicotine users reported putting in synthetic substances. One of the primary synthetics that has caused concern in e-cigarettes is known as flakka, an inexpensive substance that has the ability to cause excessive energy and hallucinations in those who ingest it.
Flakka came into national attention at the end of 2015, when it was attributed to 80 deaths, the majority of them in Florida. A study of 4,000 U.S. High School seniors in January found that about 1 percent admitted to using flakka, with the majority of those also using other substances like spice or K2 (86 percent), ketamine (72 percent) and marijuana (59 percent).
Because of the device’s history and ability to deliver a range of harmful substance, Dublin ISD is classifying the devices as drug paraphernalia, meaning that anyone caught with one is subject to 30 days of in-school suspension and possibly a lot more.
If an 18-year-old brings one and allows a younger student to use it, the school will consider that facilitation of a minor and report it to Dublin Police Department. The confiscated devices will also be provided to Dublin PD, who will test it for contraband.
Schneider reported that there has been a lot of support from the community after letters were sent, posters were put up and presentations were delivered to organizations like Rotary Club and Lions Club.
“We’re trying to do a proactive education campaign,” Schneider said. “I think the biggest [need] will be a collaboration between the school and parents. We encourage everyone to have the information. We can get kids help.”