Schools working to fight e-cigarette epidemic

From Region 8 News at Six
Published: Aug. 28, 2023 at 4:47 PM CDT
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WALNUT RIDGE, Ark. (KAIT) - As students re-enter the classroom this month, so will a problem continuously gaining popularity.

The Centers For Disease Control and Prevention said e-cigarette use among young people ”has become a concerning epidemic.

“The vapes are a major problem because they’re small, they’re easy to conceal, they’re easy for a student to use,” said Walnut Ridge High School Principal Jacob Kersey.

Kersey explained that Walnut Ridge High School has already confiscated a handful of vapes in its first two weeks.

“We have confiscated five this year already. I didn’t count last year, but I had a desk full. It was a bunch. At the end of the year, we destroyed them all. This year, I’ll just go ahead and turn them over to the police department,” Kersey said.

The bathroom is one of the most likely spots to find a student vaping, but the school has installed devices to catch students in the act.

“We started out with just the restrooms themselves in the main building, but we have since added vape detectors in the gyms and ag building,” Kersey said.

The detectors don’t make any sound when vape particles are detected, but they send a text message to specific staff.

“I get a text message. Our SRO gets a text message and certain faculty around the building, depending on what restroom it is. For instance, the restroom down by our fieldhouse, the coaches get the text message, they can maybe get to that restroom before I can.” Kersey said.

Kersey explained while it’s against school policy to have an e-cigarette on school grounds, at the end of the day, it’s about keeping students safe while at school.

“We know if someone starts to smoke cigarettes when they’re 15-16 years, there’s a good chance in 30-40 years, they’re going to have heart disease, lung cancer, emphysema, whatever. We have no idea what the long-term effects of vaping are,” Kersey added.

The principal said students have been increasingly more stealthy in concealing the e-cigarettes.

This has led to increased measures by SROs and administrators to combat the issue by metal-detecting students who may be hiding the device in personal regions.