JONESBORO, AR (KAIT) - It’s a trend sweeping the nation especially in America’s youth.
E-cigarettes--also known as “e-cigs,” “vapes,” and “e-hookahs" sometimes look like regular cigarettes.
Other times they look more like flash drives.
Either way, they were the most used tobacco products in 2017 with nearly 2 million high school students and almost 400,000 middle school students vaping, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
The CDC has some alarming statistics showing the growing popularity of e-cigs in high school and even middle schools.
We’re seeing new developments with e-cigarettes and their connection with people too young to legal buy them.
Some brands are now discontinuing certain flavors and others are halting the sales of e-cigs in certain stores altogether.
So we delved into the issue here in Region 8 to find out where it’s happening, why it’s happening, and what can be done to stop it.
Teachers, staff, and students at Corning High School are seeing and smelling the problem right inside their walls.
Coach Chris Murray knows the tell-tale signs.
“They go to the bathroom a lot and have a distinct smell like a potpourri or like a fruity scent," Murray said. "If you can smell it, somebody’s doing it.”
And it’s not uncommon, Murray said.
“Cause they’re so easily concealed. I don’t know how other than just frisking them everyday when they come in to school,” Murray said.
It’s not just high schoolers who are sneaking vapes.
“I’ve heard instances of young kids in the younger schools, 6th grade and below having them. It’s getting pretty scary," Murray said, noting it has become scary and dangerous due to kids vaping more than using nicotine.
One day, he said he found a kid passed out in the bathroom.
Murray said the student had added formaldehyde to his vape oil. Others are even mixing in paint thinner.
To deter the students, cameras are installed in the courtyard, but Murray says that’s not stopping them.
District officials have even tried punishment, like in-school suspension. Still the kids find ways to vape.
Murray says school staff can only do so much once the students bring the vapes past the doors.
He says a better solution is stopping the problem at its source, so some are taking a closer look at vape shops.
But Zach Slater at Emerald’s says otherwise.
“If we come in and someone’s by their self and they look underage we card them immediately. before they even ask for a product. They’ll be carded. If they’re underage we ask them to leave.” Slater said.
Slater noted with the purchase of any tobacco product, the customer is asked to show identification.
If an employee violates that law, the fines are substantial costing at least $10,000.
But these students are getting tobacco products somehow. Tenth grade student Elizabeth Ennis says she’s seen how.
“A lot of parents buy them for their kids," Ennis said.
She says the habit is being fueled by the underage smokers' families, while their cousins and older siblings will also buy them for kids,
It’s a maneuver that Slater and other employees have caught on to.
“If we get the inkling, we have every right to refuse that sale and we do a lot of the time if we get a vibe that that’s what’s happening, Slater said. ”
Ennis says it ultimately falls on the parents' shoulders to keep their kids from vaping.
“Parents should have more responsibility in that but when it comes down to okay, you can go out everyday a week. I think it’s the person they have to decide they want to change,” Ennis said.
Most of the smokers she’s spoken with show no signs of quitting any time soon.
“They’re like I can quit if I wanted to. I could quit if I wanted to but they never do," Ennis said.
She’s afraid the only wake-up call is if more underage smokers start to see and realize the after effects of the habit.
“Before they find a change or difference in themselves I don’t think they will. It’s really self-motivation. They have to do it themselves," Ennis said.