There's a new and disturbing trend happening in many middle and high schools. Students are vaping.
They use a device that heats a solution containing nicotine, creating a vapor that can be inhaled.
It's been used by adults for some time, but law enforcement officials say its appearance among kids is troubling.
Kids used to go out in the parking lot to sneak a cigarette during noon hour. But that is a diminishing trend, according to Chris Hislip, school resource officer with the Pennington County Sheriff's Office.
According to Hislip, vaping is rapidly replacing cigarette usage among kids.
"We're catching kids with this many, many, more times than with a pack of cigarettes," Hislip said.
He says there's a "cool" factor attached to these things. So it's peer pressure that accounts, at least partially, for the spread of this habit.
It's also easy to buy vaping products over the internet.
The long-term health effects of vaping are not yet known. It's been a trend among adults for only about 15 years. But two things about nicotine are certain. It's a poison. And it's highly addictive. In addition, vaping devices can be used to ingest illegal drugs.
"One of the challenges is that these products can be used to ingest other substances, so we find youth sometimes mix marijuana wax or hashish oil, and then they are able to inject those products, virtually undetectable," Hislip said.
And if conventional vaping is not bad enough, new devices are being introduced that don't look like vaping devices. An example is something called the Juul. It looks like a thumb drive or some other electronic gadget. But it delivers an even higher dose than conventional devices. And what is especially disturbing is the age of some of the young vapers.
"We have had three students, some as young as middle school age, using the Juul, in our Rapid City area school district," Hislip said.
Hislip says parents need to educate themselves in what the new devices look like.
The e-cigarette was invented by a Chinese pharmacist in 2003. E-cigarettes are now a 7 billion dollar per year industry, worldwide.
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