The Natrona County School District applies several tactics to deal with the rising popularity of students’ vaping including disciplinary measures, legal action, counseling, and education.
The latter tactic sometimes isn’t so much with the students as with their parents, said Casper Police Sgt. Scott Jones, who oversees the district’s school resource partnership with the police department.
Students have told him that vaping isn’t dangerous, unlike using tobacco, Jones said Monday at the school board of trustees’ second informal discussion about the use of e-cigarettes and other vaping devices.
“Parents, as well, are a little bit ignorant to the potential health effects of these devices,” he said.
The officers meet with parents of students who are cited, and he receives a response similar to that given by students, Jones said. “Parents, unfortunately, are the source of these.”
Regardless of what the parents think, it’s still illegal and every student he’s talked to knows it, he said.
Students have told school resource officers that besides being harmless, vaping makes they feel better and, of course, “what it really comes down to, it’s cool,” Jones said.
School resource officers have seen a marked increase with students found or in possession of vaping devices and the contents of their pods:
- 90% contain nicotine.
- 6% contain tetrahydrocannabinol [THC], the psychoactive ingredient in marijuana.
- The rest are unknown.
Jones said when a school resource officer finds someone with a vaping device they will issue a citation for possession of a controlled substance if it has THC and forward that to the Natrona County District Attorney’s Office.
The officer also will issue a citation if the pod contains nicotine.
If the substance is unknown, no citation can be issued, he said.
From Sept. 1 to Jan. 24, school resource officers issued about 140 misdemeanor citations, not counting those involving THC, Jones said.
The education of the students starts in the fifth grade about applying decision-making processes to enhance health, reduce health risks and becomes more detailed in the upper grades, said Angela Hensley, the district’s director of school improvement, curriculum and instruction.
Hensley showed the trustees a video that said any vaping aggravates other health problems such as asthma, a vaping pod can contain more nicotine than a pack of cigarettes, and users may not know what they’re inhaling.
Jessica Winford, assistant principal at Dean Morgan Middle School, said of the 45 tobacco incidents this school year at her school, 43 of them were for vaping.
Unlike cigarettes, which are relatively bulky, some Juul pods are so small they can fit in a fold of a sweatshirt, and a student can just bend their head down to inhale, Winford said.
Likewise, vaping devices have virtually no aroma and the only way a teacher can see one is if the light is on when someone inhales, she said.
The district also works local counseling agencies.
Whitney Lamb of the Mercer Resource Center told trustees that it does community education with Big Brothers Big Sisters, and offers an evidence-based e-cigarette program called “Catch My Breath.”
Bill Howell of the Central Wyoming Counseling Center said his agency is seeing an increase in vaping addiction among adolescents who also are being treated for substance abuse problems.
“We’re seeing an increased amount of young people who are replacing one addiction with something else,” Howell said.