BOSTON -- High schools are being forced to lock bathroom doors during school hours because student vaping is so out of control.
State experts told Boston 25 News reporter Jim Morelli that nearly 40-percent of high school students are using e-cigarettes or have tried vaping, and much of it is happening at school.
“Whether they're getting them at the local store or they're getting them through the internet, they are getting them. They are having no problem getting them. It is not difficult at all,” Holliston Public Schools Superintendent Brad Jackson said.
Selling any tobacco products, including e-cigarettes or vaping devices, to minors is illegal. But as the problem grows, some communities are working to contain on-campus vaping.
“This year we've suspended over 28 students for vaping at our school,” Jackson said.
However, because the vapors are harder to detect than traditional cigarettes it can make cracking down difficult.
“You physically have to enter a bathroom and in many cases, you would have to knock on and receive permission to enter a stall in order to catch a student vaping,” Jackson said.
That's led Holliston High School to take the drastic step of sometimes locking bathrooms up.
“We are struggling, as are most high schools, particularly about how to address this issue,” Jackson said.
Teens are also getting better at hiding when they vape too. One popular device is called a Juul and looks like a thumb drive, others are designed to look like smartphone cases.
“You put your phone in the case and then you can just inhale the liquid as if you're just thinking and putting the phone up to your mouth,” Tina Grosowsky of the Central Massachusetts Tobacco-Free Community Partnership said.
But Jackson said the problem with vaping isn’t just a school issue.
“My message is we need to talk about it as a broader community issue,” he said. “This is an unsafe behavior. Because it is unregulated and you don't know what you are putting inside your body.”
While it is true that electronic cigarettes contain far fewer chemicals than tobacco, they can contain nicotine which can lead to addiction.
“Nicotine addiction can lead to other mood changes. It interferes certainly with focus, concentration, attention,” Grosowsky said.
Addiction might explain why some teens risk suspension to vape, they crave it that much.
Grosowsky says more needs to be done to limit the supply. One suggestion is passing local laws restricting the sale of flavored vaping products or banning actual vape shops.
“So you have to be 18, or in a community where they've raised the age to 21, for sales then you'd have to be 21,” she said.
David Bershad, co-owns the Vape Daddy chain of stores and endorses that idea. He enforces a strict adults-only policy for his stores, but knows it’s hard to stop teens jumping into a popular trend -- even when it may come with health risks.
“Kids are going to do stuff. They're going to push the envelope. That's what they do,” he said.
Vaping products will come under FDA regulation soon because of a rule adopted in 2016, in large part to prevent teen access.
However, until the FDA has completed its review of the ingredients contained in the many vaping products on the market they can continue to be sold.
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