VapingBy ANTHONY WARREN,
Schools take zero tolerance stance against growing trend
Last week, St. Andrew’s Episcopal School was planning to bring in experts with a local nonprofit health advocacy group to inform students about the risks of vaping.
Julia Chadwick, head of St. Andrew’s upper school, said the presentation is needed as vaping grows in popularity with students.
The presentation is one example of how educational leaders on the Northside are working to not only stop vaping on their campuses, but keep kids from starting.
Schools across the Northside have implemented “zero tolerance” for students caught vaping, rules that have only been implemented in recent years as the popularity of e-cigarettes soars.
“If they’re caught vaping, we would suspend them,” Chadwick said. “If I smell fruit punch or crème brulee, I tell them to watch out because (vaping) has a smell.”
Vaping is becoming more popular with students on the Northside and across the United States. Reasons for its growing popularity range from its perceived safety. Many students believe it’s safer than using traditional tobacco.
Vaping is the process of inhaling vapors from oils heated in electronic cigarettes, or e-cigarettes. The devices range in size from pocket-size to the size of a large pen or thumb drive.
Others credit the increase in popularity to easy access and clever advertising. While it’s illegal to sell vaping devices to minors, children can still purchase the devices online.
Additionally, teens flock to e-cigarettes seeking out sweet and fruity flavors.
To combat the trend, school leaders are reaching out to advocacy groups, parents, and law enforcement agencies for help.
“We treat it like it’s tobacco. It says in our handbook that tobacco and e-cigarettes will be punished as a suspension-level offense,” said Dena Kinsey, head of school at St. Joseph Catholic School.
“It’s been in our policy book for a while. I believe it’s also a diocesan policy.”
St. Joe is governed by the Catholic Diocese of Jackson.
Kinsey said she doesn’t see vaping as much on campus any more, but said some students still get caught doing it.
“A friend will tell on them or they will post it on social media,” she said. “If you’re going to say, ‘I’m vaping at St. Joe’ on social media and I find out about it, I’m going to get you.
“I don’t search for it, but we are a pretty tight-knit group. Someone will let me know about it.”
Madison-Ridgeland Academy (MRA) Principal Greg Self said his school is working to raise awareness with parents, teachers and students about vaping. MRA sends information home to parents, as well as educates teachers during faculty meetings. Students are taught about the dangers of vaping in health class.
Students caught vaping or with vaping material face suspension.
“This is the first year we have seen it (on our campus) and we have had to address it,” Self said.
Like other schools, Jackson Preparatory School (Prep) and Jackson Academy (JA) treat e-cigarettes like tobacco.
“It’s not allowed at all. As soon as it became a (big) thing, we started cracking down to make sure it wasn’t a problem on campus,” Prep Director of Communications Ryan Sherman said.
He didn’t know of any students who had been caught or punished for the practice. “It’s not a problem on our campus.”
JA wouldn’t say whether any students on their campus had been disciplined for vaping.
cracking down on vaping, though, could get tougher as technologies improve.
Today, manufacturers are offering mini e-cigarettes, including one with the brand name Juul. The device resembles a thumb drive and can be charged in a USB port.
“The smoke (vapor) production on that is much, much less than traditional vapes,” said Germantown Principal Wesley Quick. “It’s much more difficult to catch someone vaping with the Juul.”
Quick said Germantown, which is part of the Madison County School District, has seen an uptick in the number of students caught vaping.
The school is working with the Madison County Sheriff’s Department to stay up to date on the latest trends and train teachers to spot the devices.
“Some kids have started vaping because they’re trying to break the habit of dipping or smoking,” Quick said. “Others (out of) curiosity.
According to December 2017 article in the UK’s Guardian, 35.8 percent of U.S. high school students had tried vaping at least once by their final year of high school.
Compared only 26.6 percent had tried smoking.
“I know a couple of friends who said they would never smoke and they’ve started vaping,” said Madasine Brown, a junior at Madison Central High School. “They started to think it’s cool because everybody else is doing it.”
Brown, who does not vape, echoed Quick’s concerns about Juuls, saying students have been able to charge them in class without getting caught.
“Teachers don’t know what they are.”
E-cigarette use is growing in popularity in part because students enjoy the flavors and because the practice is seen as safer than smoking or dipping.
However, a February 2018 report from CBS News cites evidence from a Johns Hopkins University report that some e-cigarettes “released vapors with potentially unsafe levels of led, chromium, manganese and/or nickel.”
Another study conducted by the University of Southern California found that those who try e-cigarettes are more likely to begin smoking.