Electronic cigarettes are ‘high on every school system’s radar right now,’ Western Ky. school official tells Henderson newspaper

This story has been updated to reflect recent data about teens and e-cigarette use.

School officials in northwestern Kentucky are trying deal with an increase in the use of electronic cigarettes by students, Erin Schmitt reports for The Gleaner in Henderson.

Union County Schools spokeswoman Malinda Beauchamp told Schmitt there had been 16 discipline referrals of students using e-cigarettes at Union County High School and 26 at Union County Middle School this year. There is no data from previous years for comparison, but school officials “have noticed the rise” and want to be proactive in preventing more usage, Beauchamp said.

Schmitt reported on e-cigarette usage at other schools in the region and found 15 to 20 incidents at Henderson County High, but only a few incidents in North Middle School, South Middle School and Central Academy, according to Julie Wischer, public information officer for Henderson County Schools.

The Webster County Schools did not have exact numbers of incidents of usage, but has e-cigarettes listed under its policy as a tobacco product or paraphernalia, Todd Marshall, Webster’s director of pupil personnel, told Schmidt. Though it’s a new issue, Marshall said, “It’s high on every school system’s radar right now.”

A recent report by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention found that the number of high school students who tried e-cigarettes has tripled in one year, to more than 13 percent, while smoking of traditional cigarettes dropped to 9.2 percent from more than 13 percent, CBS News reports.

“Many users of marijuana prefer e-cigs or vapes because it’s smokeless, odorless and easy to hide or conceal,” Henderson County Supt. Patricia Sheffer told Schmitt. “This ‘vaping’ is a concern in our schools and elsewhere among youth, because it can produce a nearly instant ‘high’ with little or no detection.”

The preventive measures include: a Facebook message to parents and students from her about the dangers of e-cigarettes, which not only involves nicotine usage, but also marijuana, alcohol and other drugs that can be ingested through the device; updating policies, procedures and the student code of conduct to include prohibitions on e-cigs and vapor devices on school property; a commitment to find out how the student got access to the device; and a required drug and alcohol screening if caught, with parent-paid counseling if the screen is positive.

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