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Alert for parents: more kids & teens vaping in schools

Superintendent alerts parents, revealing concerning trend about vaping in schools

In the main office of Lewiston-Porter Central High School, principal Jared Taft and his staff open a box full of envelopes to show Channel 2's Emily Lampa.  

Each envelope has a student's name written on the front. In each envelope there is either a vaporizer, an e-cigarette, liquid nicotine, or a combination of the three. 

The devices are slated to be destroyed as part of the school district's new zero tolerance policy for these kinds of products on school property.

Superintendent Paul Casseri sent a letter to parents, alerting them about this policy change, on November 28. He explained, in that letter, that disciplinary reports show a 200% increase in the possession and use of these devices and products across the school district.

Lewiston-Porter Central Superintendent, Paul Casseri's letter to parents, notifying them of a concerning rise in vaping among students.

"We've noticed, I'd say over the past two years, a gradual increase," the superintendent told Emily Lampa. "But this year, it's just gotten out of hand."

Besides the threat of suspension, Casseri warns there could be criminal consequences if students are found using vape juice mixed with illicit drugs.

"I guess they're making their own juices," Casseri tells 2 On Your Side. "Some of these students, they sell them at school."

Last year, at the high school, teachers and staff confiscated 37 devices and vape juice. In the three and half months of this school year alone, high school staff confiscated 40. 

At the middle school, three students were caught with e-cigarettes or vaporizers, last year. So, far this year, they confiscated six.

Casseri says administrators believe even younger students may be using, "There are some fourth and fifth graders that may be dabbling as well. So, it's an issue."

Because of their discreet designs, Casseri tells us students are using them everywhere from the bus to locker rooms. He says students are even caught vaping openly in the hallways, during class, and in the cafeteria. Some of the e-cigarettes resemble pens, highlighters, makeup cases, or jump drives. Administrators and teachers admit they're often difficult to spot.

"It's not just about hammering kids," explained Casseri. "It's about parents needing to have a conversation about how negative and unhealthy this is."

Niagara County Public Health Director, Daniel Stapleton, tells 2 On Your Side he's been in contact with school nurses throughout the county, and this problem isn't isolated to the Lewiston-Porter Central School District. He says it's nation-wide.

"This isn't just fun and games," said Stapleton of the rampant use of liquid nicotine in youth, with developing brains. "They're addicted to a substance. and it's something that impacts their cognitive ability now and into the their adult years. So it's growing problem. It affects mood disorder, impulse disorder...it causes lung disease."

Stapleton says are plenty of other chemicals in the vape juice that parents should be concerned about such as diacetyl, found in certain flavorings, and benzyne; which have been found to cause cancer.

"Parents need to take it just as serious as the schools do," added the public health director.

The Lewiston-Porter Central School District will be hosting an information meeting for parents in January to inform parents about their policy changes as well as of the risks associated with using e-cigarettes, vaporizers, and vape juice. 

They're also hoping state leaders will invest in a curriculum for students, or a more widespread public awareness campaign, to further educate parents and students on the dangers of this escalating trend.

Anyone over 18 can buy e-cigarettes, vaporizers or liquid nicotine; but the admits he's hoping legislators might raise the legal age to 21 to prevent older teens from purchasing the devices to give or resell to younger students.

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