REDMOND, OR -- Redmond Schools Superintendent Mike McIntosh is worried about what he says is an exponential rise in the number of students caught vaping, "E-cigarettes: electronic devices that they’re using to consume a number of things, from plain old cigarette-type nicotine to marijuana, to rat poison. It’s absolutely scary what’s going on in our school system – probably in our society and world at large."
Instances of young people using these inhalant systems seems to be on the rise, and McIntosh says it can't be ignored, "Tobacco is not allowed in our school system, so the treatment for tobacco is we suspend the students that are in possession of it or certainly share it with others. So, we’re treating all vaping – whether it’s tobacco or something far worse – simply as tobacco. The first two weeks of school, we suspended 20 students for the possession of and/or distributing tobacco via a vape pen." And, he says it’s not just in the high schools. Two of those 20 suspended students were in the fifth grade.
McIntosh tells KBND News the use of vape pens and e-cigarettes in schools surged last spring, "As summer wore on, it has absolutely reached – I think not a climax; I think it’s still going in the wrong direction. But, parents are buying, often times the apparatus and the contents believing that it’s safer; if they’re going to pick a fight with their child, then let’s pick one they have some control over. I’m not convinced by any stretch that it is safer."
He’s sending a letter to families in the district this week explaining what he calls an epidemic, and how parents can be proactive and talk to kids about the dangers of all forms of tobacco, including these popular devices. McIntosh says vaping can be difficult to track because it doesn't smell like traditional cigarettes, and flavors like bubble gum and cotton candy help mask the scent. According to McIntosh, one cartridge has as much nicotine as a full pack of cigarettes.
Pictured: (top) Some devices look like a pen and emit no smoke. (upper right) Juul brand electronic cigarettes were released in late 2017 and often look like a USB drive.