Carmel Clay Schools and the Carmel Police Dept. are working together to discourage students from vaping or using e-cigarettes, a trend that has exploded nationally and locally in recent years. Representatives from both agencies presented information to the CCS school board March 25 on the epidemic and what’s being done to stop it.
CPD School Resource Officer Shane VanNatter said he wrote his first citation for e-cigarette use at Carmel High School in 2014. For the 2018-19 school year, he’s already written 25 citations. This doesn’t include 18-year-old students, who are legally allowed to possess vaping products.
The spike in vaping comes after it appeared nicotine use was on the way out at Carmel High School, as CPD only gave one citation for tobacco use in 2012-13.
“We’ve nearly eradicated actual cigarettes among our youth, but the use of these e-cigarettes has skyrocketed,” said David Woodward, CCS director of student services.
According to the FDA, vaping among high school students rose 78 percent from 2017 to 2018. In Indiana, nearly 30 percent of high school seniors reported vaping monthly in 2018, according to the Indiana Prevention Resource Center, more than a 10 percent jump from 2017.
E-cigarettes are battery-powered devices used for inhaling a flavored aerosol that usually contains nicotine. Some look like cigarettes, while others resemble USB drives or pens, making them more difficult to detect. VanNatter said some are discreet enough that students can use them during class without being caught.
Some students are also using the devices to vape THC, the psychoactive component of the cannabis plant that leads to feeling high. VanNatter said the THC oils are typically much more potent than smoking marijuana, and that he’s seen more than a dozen cases this school year of Carmel students “very, very impaired” after using it.
“One hit looks like they’ve been on a bender,” he said, adding that it’s often bought and sold through Snapchat. “It’s that potent, that strong.”
The district soon plans to release a series of short videos to educate students and parents about the dangers of vaping. It will also soon pilot a four-week program called Catch My Breath for students in middle and high school that provides information on e-cigarettes. It will be presented in health and interpersonal relations classes.
“We want to incorporate this fully next year into our health and wellness curriculum so our students have this ongoing education,” said Amy Dudley, CCS assistant superintendent of curriculum, instruction and assessment.
School board members expressed support for the actions planned to address the issue.
“I was shocked by the statistics and the impact on our students’ health and on our society,” school board member Lynn Zheng said after the presentation. “I think this is an important issue, just as important as school safety.”
School board member Katie Browning said the district’s efforts will benefit more than just students.
“(There are) parents doing these exact same things, because I don’t think they know (the dangers) either,” she said. “So as much as we’re helping our students, we’re helping our parents as well.”