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Central Indiana schools work to combat e-cigarette use

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CARMEL, Ind.-- Central Indiana schools say they’re dealing with an epidemic. The number of teens vaping and using e-cigarettes are on the rise. Nationally, 1.5 million more students used e-cigarettes in 2018 compared to 2017.

What makes this so tough for parents and schools is that it’s difficult to detect, but easy for teens to get a hold of. E-cigarettes are the most commonly used tobacco product among youth in Indiana and schools are learning quickly they have to intervene.

“What we find is that teens really just don’t understand it,” said Sgt. DJ Schoeff with the Carmel Police Department, “Kids will say, 'I’ve tried to stop, I’m having trouble stopping' and that’s important for us to know and for us to get out to parents.”

Sgt. Schoeff says many teens think vaping is less dangerous. However, the amount of nicotine can be the same or it could be replaced with something else, like THC.

“It’s certainly something that we see,” said Sgt. Schoeff, “Whether it be nicotine or THC, the impact of that so we can help them make good decisions.”

To help combat the problem, Carmel Clay schools created a program called Catch My Breath. Students hold discussions together to learn what negative effects vaping can have on their health.

According to the CDC, using e-cigarettes can be harmful with the development of an adolescent brain. The brain keeps developing until about age 25. Using nicotine in adolescence can harm parts of the brain that control attention, learning, mood, and impulse control. The CDC says vaping as a teenager may also increase the risk for future addiction to other drugs.

This is nowhere close to just a Carmel problem. We reached out to seven other school districts across central Indiana to see what problems they’re facing.

Just this week, Mooresville schools sent a letter to parents. The first letter sent by Principal Brian Disney stated how students would be limited passes to the restroom to combat vaping.

“We are having problems with students using e-cigarettes, vaping in restrooms during class time and passing periods,” the letter read.

The letter also listed many resources for parents to read regarding the dangers of vaping. The next day, Principal Disney sent out another letter adding more about the policy and how there would be increased supervision:

Yesterday we implemented a procedure developed with the input of student groups, parents, administrators, and staff members in the attempt to increase student health and safety as we address the epidemic of vaping.

As part of this ongoing process, we are updating procedures to return to normal restroom availability throughout the school day along with yesterday’s plan which included increased supervision.

Noblesville schools say they’ve had to add a mandatory Saturday vaping counseling class for those caught in the act. In a statement, Noblesville schools addressed their concerns:

We have seen vaping increase for several years and it has completely replaced student use of traditional cigarettes and chewing tobacco. Also, current vaping rates we’re seeing are higher than past student tobacco use.

We address the dangers of vaping with students in health classes, have staff monitors assigned to bathrooms to watch for vaping, and have recently implemented a new remediation program at our high school. The new program is a mandatory Saturday vaping counseling class that students caught vaping must attend. The goal is to help students quit and reduce repeat vaping infractions.

In Washington Township, leaders are also aware of the dangers, to the point their hosting a parent meeting with the Indiana State Department of Health. On May 15 at 6:30 pm in the Northview Middle School auditorium, the District will host an evening to educate parents about the dangers of e-cigarettes, vaping, and tobacco use. The evening will also include a panel discussion of students and MSDWT Administrators.

In addition, Wayne Township sent us their policy regarding e-cigarettes and vaping. It is not allowed, and to show that they have signs posted around the school showing that.

“Because it is so new and there isn’t a lot of data, there’s not a lot of research to show,” said Sgt. Schoeff, “With tobacco the numbers are going down and we were able to do that because of studies over the years and research and parents know that’s bad. But with the vaping, sometimes people say it’s a water vapor, it’s not bad for us, we just don’t know the long-term effects of this.”

The unknowns are what give Student Resource Officer’s like Schoeff a difficult task, to teach students what we do know so their future doesn’t go up in smoke.

We also reached out to Indianapolis Public Schools, Pike and Lawrence Township. They told us they are not seeing much of an issue at this time.

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