TYLER, Texas (KETK) – Electronic vapes and e-cigarettes have risen in popularity among teens in recent years. School officials have even noticed a decrease in alcohol use on campus in comparison.
3.58 million youth are currently using e-cigarettes, according to the FDA. The National Youth Tobacco Survey shows data that suggests that 40% of high school e-cigarette users are using them 20 or more days out of the month and nearly a quarter use them everyday. The FDA said that frequent use suggests a strong dependence on nicotine.
Students that KETK spoke with said that many of their peers are vaping as a coping mechanism.
“It’s really sad because it affects their mental health. They go through depression or anxiety, or they’re angry with themselves and others,” said Molly Frazier, Mount Enterprise High School student.
Chapel Hill ISD Chief of Police Andrew Whitfield said they’ve had one alcohol related incident in the past year, but in that same amount of time, they have confiscated 42 vapes and it is increasingly becoming a problem.
“You can see them walking down the street doing it…we catch them in the bathrooms trying to hide it,” said Whitfield.
Whitfield said that parents are often shocked and would never guess that their child would even have an e-cigarette, much less use one.
Not only is usage of vapes or e-cigarettes easier to hide than traditional cigarettes, but Whitfield said that teens are often loading the cartridges with THC, the active ingredient in marijuana, to get high.
“They’re made in all types of shapes and sizes from your typical, what looks like a cigarette to flash drives to and you know, they have those decorative little USBs that look like cars… they could look almost like anything nowadays, the way manufacturers make them,” said Whitfield.
According to a study done by Truth Initiative, 81% of young people who started vaping said that they did so to decrease stress, anxiety or depression.
Vaping has become an increasing problem in teens, and other teens are seeing the effects in their peers.
“Vaping is like the biggest problem,” said Allie Annadurrett, student at Mount Enterprise High School.
Annadurett told us when asked, that in a class of 25, 20 of the students either vape or have vaped in the past year.
Other students gave us slightly smaller estimates– often around 15 out of 25.
Chief Whitfield said that he thinks at least 50% of students in a class either vape or have in the past year.
At Carlisle ISD, students told KETK that there were times that they would avoid going to the restrooms, just to prevent being caught up with vaping students.
“A lot of the time that was our excuse to the teachers, why we didn’t want to go in between classes or during, you know, any breaks that we had,” said Meaghan English, student at Carlisle Senior High School.
Rebekah Walker, Licensed Professional Counselor, said that vaping is currently incredibly prevalent and causing depression and anxiety in teens.
Walker said that the rise in vaping is often indicative of deeper problems.
Students told KETK that once the coping effect wears off for many of their peers, the initial issues remain.
Walker’s best advice to parents is to have a conversation with your child about the dangers of vaping and what problems they are running in to, so that these problems do not become habits.
Officer Whitfield said that the best thing to do is be involved and engaged with your teens. Whitfield also added that knowing what the vapes look like and being educated on them will help parents to help their teens.