Parents are always trying to protect their children against what might be lurking in the shadows. What’s discerning about the latest trend for children and teenagers is the fact that e-cigs and vapes are often in plain sight.

Eyeliner, lead pencil containers and flash drive look-a-likes are among the latest vape and e-cig devices teachers and staff members at Morgan Middle School have confiscated from students.

Morgan Middle School Principal Michelle Bibich said nine vapes have so far been confiscated from students. Bibich said one thing that is alarming is how difficult it can be for staff to identify the vapes without confusing it with everyday school items like highlighters or flash drives. Bibich held up one vape that a student said was a flashlight.

Bibich said that there’s probably four or five times that many of vapes in student’s hands at a given time.

“These are just the ones that we’ve gotten. It’s definitely a huge increase in being a problem this year compared to previous years.” Bibich said. “I’m not sure what happened to kids all of a sudden to discover them or felt like they could bring them to school, but it’s a problem on the rise nationwide.”

One thing that can’t be camouflaged is vaping’s distinctive sweet smell. Not a lot of adults want to vape fruit punch or cotton candy Neil Musser, Director of Security of the Ellensburg School District, said to a group of parents at Morgan Middle School during an educational presentation about vaping on Tuesday.

Musser said that one cartridge/pod is equivalent to one pack of smokes. Although long-term effects are still being researched, it’s been proven that e-cigs and vapes cause popcorn lung over long term use.

According to the American Lung Association, a decade ago workers in popcorn factories were sickened by breathing in diacetyl — the buttery-flavored chemical in foods like popcorn, caramel and dairy products. Although diacetyl is safe to ingest and is tasty, when inhaled it causes a serious and irreversible lung disease commonly known today as popcorn lung. This same chemical is found in nearly all e-cigarette flavors and is inhaled whenever someone takes a pull on an e-cig or vape.

According to Bibich, during passing periods students make plans with each other to go to the bathroom to vape. The privacy of the bathrooms aren’t easily monitored and one student informed Bibch that students put their vapes down their pants because they know staff won’t look there.

This prompted Morgan Middle School to put restrictions on leaving to the bathroom between the first 10 minutes of class and the last 10 minutes, periods of time when peak offenses happen.

Bibich said if a student is caught with a vape at Morgan Middle School the consequences will have an educational component to it.

Bibich said it’s not unique to a particular kind of kid, that the spectrum of kids who vape is large.

“You’d be surprised who we’re catching,” Bibich said. “In middle school, students don’t always think through the long-term consequences of anything. That’s part of the nature of who they are ... they’re good kids, but they see something that’s marketed to look like something they should have, that looks like a school supply. It’s hard for them not to be attracted to vapes. Plus their friends are doing it.”

Bibich said a huge component the school thinks why students choose to vape is because of peer pressure and a complete lack of understanding. According to Bibich, many students did not understand that vapes had nicotine in it when the school explained the dangers to students.

“They’re constantly trying to navigate the world around them and this is just one more barrier we put in place for kids in society,” Bibich said. “We used to have smoking in schools, we used to have kids trying to sneak alcohol in schools, and this is the latest trend that we’re trying to combat so that they can be healthy and they can make those choices later on as adults when they understand what they’re doing and the choice they’re making.”

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