The dangers of vaping are affecting Smith-Cotton High School students, with three medical incidents in the past two weeks.
On Feb. 2, Principal Wade Norton sent a letter to students and parents about multiple issues involving reactions to vape pens. In the letter, Norton urged families to sit down and have an open conversation about vaping and drug use, especially when the consequences of vaping are unknown.
Vape pens, also known as e-cigarettes, have become a popular way to use nicotine, which is extracted from tobacco, or cannabis, whether through THC or CBD. The products use a battery to heat up a liquid into an aerosol that users inhale. Some vape products include flavorings or other chemicals.
On Tuesday, Norton spoke with the Democrat about the situation at the high school.
“We have had a few incidents with students, who had told us they were vaping and they had to have medical attention,” Norton added. “So, they’ve either had to deal with our school nurse or had to be sent (to a health care facility) for medical attention.”
Based on these incidents, Norton said he felt it was important to inform parents of what is happening and encourage them to have a conversation with their kids.
“Because all the incidents involved students vaping before their medical issue,” Norton said. “Now, I don't know what their family doctors have told them, I just know the issues have all started because of vaping.”
Norton added that he doesn’t know if vaping has become more popular among the students or if the vaping they are doing has become more dangerous.
“We don’t know what’s in these vapes, they’re always evolving and changing,” he said. “I just know whatever that vaping is going through right now, be it THC or nicotine, seems to be affecting them more than it has been in the past.”
The high school has implemented measures to try and nip vaping in the bud by installing vape sensors in the school bathrooms, a common location where students would go to vape. But even with those measures, the students still do it outside school.
“It’s very addicting to them, and they tell us it’s very hard for them to stop,” Norton added. “That’s why I think an honest conversation with their parents could help.”
Norton said he knows it can be difficult for students to speak with their parents about situations until they feel like they won't be in trouble and that these are kids who want to make adult choices. This is why he asked parents to have an open conversation with their students.
“Because I do not want to see a medical emergency come where it could cause a student to be hospitalized or pass away,” he added.
Norton didn’t receive much feedback after sending his letter to Smith-Cotton families, but he has heard that there have been a few conversations between students and parents.
The school isn’t sure if the situations involve THC or nicotine, but it could be a combination of both.
“The more we’re reading and looking into things, there is a lot of things with nicotine poisoning,” Norton added. “I don’t think students understand how much nicotine could be in that vape that they’re taking.”
The high school administration is meeting with stakeholders inside and outside the district to see if there need to be more experts coming in to speak to students or if it will just be communication between those stakeholders.
With this meeting, the school will discuss plans on how the staff can better help students in a vaping medical emergency.
“It only takes one hit, one pill or one wrong, uninformed decision to lose a life,” Norton added.
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