East TN schools responding to increased vaping incidents


CLINTON, Tenn. (WATE) – Lung illnesses are striking hundreds of Americans with different symptoms and no clear cause. But doctors and health care experts are probing the possible link to vaping.

Nationally, the CDC reports at least 805 possible cases of vaping related lung injuries from 46 states, with 36 of those cases in Tennessee. Public health officials have reported 13 confirmed deaths nationwide.

On Wednesday, the Monroe County Schools System shared that a Sequoyah High School student was taken to the hospital. Because the student is a minor, no other information, including their condition, is available.

RELATED: Monroe County student flown to hospital for vaping-related medical emergency

It is known that teens are vaping – school systems are responding.

RELATED: Cumberland Co. deputies ordered to destroy all tobacco, vaping products found on minors

ASAP of Anderson, an anti-drug coalition, says teens in Anderson County using e-cigarettes has nearly tripled in the last four years.

“We’ve had about 15 students charged with vaping so far this year,” said Paula Sellers, Director of Student Services for Anderson County Schools.

The school system has developed policies with varying consequences if a student is caught with a vaping device.

“It also depends on what’s in your device, whether it’s nicotine, THC or a drug derivative,” added Sellers.

RELATED: East TN doctors share concerns amid reported vaping hospitalizations

Anderson County Schools also implemented a class to help kids quit.

“We try to get those students in that class early so they can learn about the harm that tobacco and drugs can cause,” explained Sellers.

Sellers says part of education, when it comes to vaping, includes training staff with what the various e-cigarettes look like and how students are concealing them.

“Well, if we don’t know what it is, we can’t find it and we can’t prevent it,” she said. “We can’t prevent students from using it or selling it or just passing it out among students at our schools.”

MORE ONLINE | Teens and vaping: Dangers and symptoms parents should know

There are vaping prevention programs in the middle and high schools through ASAP of Anderson and their youth ambassadors.

“It’s kind of our mantra, ‘Nothing about me, without me.’ So, incorporating the students into our planning is really critical because the work that we do is for them,” said Stephanie Strutner, Executive Director of ASAP of Anderson.

Prevention strategies include:

  • Providing information and skill-building for parents and educators
  • Providing support tools for students
  • Enhancing access to support and treatment
  • Reducing access to e-cigarettes for minors
  • Changing school building designs to make it more difficult to vape without being caught

Educators say vaping is more than just a school problem, it’s a parent and community problem.

“I think we’re all going to learn this together but it’s going to be too late. So, there’s going to be a lot of risk and some health issues that come up and it’s going to be too late. I think we just have to get the word out there,” said Sellers.


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