MEMPHIS, Tenn. — Electronic cigarettes, or vapes, that simulate tobacco smoking are showing up in more and more schools.
It is so bad in Giles County, Tennessee that school resource officers say vape devices are being found all over bathrooms. Officials say 95% of kids at the high school use or have used vapes, and citations have been issued to sixth graders.
We asked Memphis Shelby County Schools what they are seeing.
They said they would need more time to compile information for all their schools. But we do know that vapes, like cigarettes, are not allowed in the school system.
MSCS policy prohibits student smoking or possession of tobacco products, lighters or matches on school campuses, at school sponsored activities or on school buses.
But that doesn’t mean it’s not happening.
Trust Pays, the Program that allows students to tell a trusted adult about prohibited items seen at schools, listed that vaping is getting some school students in trouble.
Buddy Chapman, who started Trust Pays, says they pay students when their tips lead to vapes that have more than nicotine. Some have actual THC, an ingredient in marijuana.
He says in the last two school years, there’ve been 11 incidents of Trust Pay paying students after the Vape devices they reported turned out to have THC.
Trust Pay says in some cases kids were actually caught vaping at school, the vapes were confiscated, and the students suspended.
“We don’t get tips on every case of a vape pen being found in the schools. So what we have is just the ones that are reported and we pay a reward,” Chapman said — meaning the problem can be even larger.
Dr. Michelle Bowden with LeBonheur Children’s Hospital says what students are inhaling is dangerous.
“So they’re what we would typically think about as being contained in things like antifreeze that are going into the lungs and can cause damage within the lungs themselves,” Bowden said.
She says kids as young as middle school are trying the products, which can easily become addicted.
“Even after only a few, only a few devices, I could really start to experience some of nicotine cravings and nicotine withdrawals. and that’s really a testament to the sensitivity of the adolescent brain to those exposures,” she said.
Doctors say it’s important for parents to talk to their kids about vaping early on, and to discuss the dangers associated with it, including how it can aleter their school and sports performance and land them in the hospital.