Superintendent of Dawson County Schools Dr. Damon Gibbs issued a letter March 20 to the community regarding the dangers of electronic cigarette usage among students as the trend continues to rise in an effort to raise awareness of what the youth are ingesting.
“Over the past two years we have seen an increase in a dangerous new trend among students, e-cigarette use, also known as vaping which can quite frankly put our students at great risk,” Gibbs said.
Gibbs’ letter also addressed a recent incident in which a Dawson County Junior High School student was transported to the hospital due to vaping an unknown substance.
According to an incident report from the Dawson County Sheriff’s Office, personnel responded to a “difficulty breathing” call at 3:14 p.m. on March 13 for a male child approximately 13 years old.
Gibbs said that the incident occurred off campus and the student was found near Dairy Queen.
“We are asking parents, guardians and all those with children in their care to be aware of the dangers of vaping, e-cigarettes and especially the dangers of students using vapes to ingest drugs,” Gibbs said. “Please educate yourself on identifying these devices as they come in a variety of forms and can look like USB flash drives, lighters, pens and other common items.”
Electronic cigarettes, also referred to as e-cigarettes or vape pens, have been around for more than a decade and have become popular among nicotine users looking for a safer alternative to smoking cigarettes.
The device creates an inhalable vapor that can contain any number of substances including drugs and illegal substances such as THC oil, fentanyl, LSD and a substance known as “kronic.”
“Due to the lack of smoke and odor that emits from the device, it is nearly impossible to tell what substance is being used,” Gibbs said.
According to the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, one in five high school students reported using e-cigarettes in the past month in 2018.
The Center for Disease Control and Prevention, or CDC, warns that the long term health effects of e-cigarettes are still unknown as scientists continue to look at data.
Some ingredients could be harmful to the lungs in the long-term because while some e-cigarette flavors are safe to eat they might not be safe to inhale as the gut can process more substances than the lungs according to a 2016 study conducted by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services.
The Surgeon General also warns that, besides nicotine, e-cigarettes can contain harmful ingredients including: ultrafine particles that can be inhaled into the lungs, flavor chemicals like diacetyl that are linked to lung disease, volatile organic compounds and heavy metals like nickel, tin and lead.
“I want our Dawson County parents to understand the dangers surrounding this issue,” Gibbs said. “We can have more productive conversations with our children when we are well informed.”
The school system is working to educate students about the dangers of vaping and the use of other controlled substances in an age-appropriate manner and in conjunction with the Dawson County Sheriff’s Office.
For more information please go to the Center for Disease Control and Prevention website at www.cdc.gov/tobacco and the U.S. Surgeon General website at www.e-cigarettes.surgeongeneral.gov.