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Vaping infractions skyrocket in Hampton Roads schools amid national outbreak

E-cigarette use is rising among teenagers, and so is the number of students getting in trouble for vaping in the Hampton Roads area.

VIRGINIA BEACH, Va. — Among all Virginia Beach City Public Schools, 28 students were given infractions for vaping in the 2016-2017 school-year. 

Just two years later, VBCPS handed out 363 infractions for SY 2018-2019, a sign of the growing popularity of e-cigarettes among teenagers and the influence of youth marketing, as well as the school division's crackdown on no-vaping rules.

The rise of youth vaping coincides with a national outbreak of lung injury associated with the use of e-cigarette and vaping products. 

The Centers for Disease Control reports 2,172 people have been injured and 42 people have died across 49 states in 2019. CDC officials are now connecting the outbreak to the additive Vitamin E acetate.

“You know typically when we have these types of outbreak investigations, they are the result of some type of infectious agent," said Brian King, Deputy Director for Research Translation in the Office on Smoking and Health. "In this case we’re dealing with a more chronic disease-related factor in the context of e-cigarettes and it’s also complicated by the fact that we have cases in nearly all states.”

CDC reports more than a quarter of all teenagers are now using e-cigarettes, and that rise of vaping popularity is evident locally.

13News Now collected statistics on vaping infractions for each school division in Hampton Roads over the past three years.

In Chesapeake Public Schools, four vaping infractions in SY 16/17 increased to 40 infractions in SY 17/18, which then tripled to 128 last school year.

In Virginia Beach City Public Schools, the number of students disciplined for vaping boomed from 28 to 174 to 363 in just three school years.

The rise isn’t isolated to these two districts. Among all Hampton Roads schools, vaping and tobacco infractions grew from 145 to 471 to 1,191 between 2016/2017 and 2018/2019 school years. 

A full list of reported vaping and tobacco infractions in Hampton Roads schools is included at the bottom of this story. 

Virginia Beach school administrators said they recently shifted focus to strictly enforce no-vaping rules.

“It was the beginning of last school year, we knew the numbers were really taking off and we needed to provide some attention to it, said Mike McGee, Director of the Office of Student Leadership.

McGee said the problem still needs educational, health and disciplinary action.

“It’s a product that’s been very well marketed to the adolescents, and unfortunately they’ve taken the bait," he said.

A July 25, 2019 congressional memo found that popular e-cigarette company Juul paid schools between $10,000 and $134,000 to gain access to kids. The memo called the effort a “sophisticated program that targeted teenagers and children” as young as eight years old, with Juul representatives telling kids vaping was “totally safe.” The memo also outlines a widespread social media influencer program, designed to reach more than 1.5 million people.

Juul, responding in a statement, said: “We never designed our marketing to appeal to youth and do not want any non-nicotine users to try our products.”

The Food and Drug Administration is still considering regulations on e-cigarettes and vaping products. In the meantime, McGee said Virginia Beach students and parents need to treat vaping as a health crisis.

“I’m really hoping we’ll see this level off with us taking the infractions very seriously," McGee said.

Some school divisions keep track of vaping infractions and other said they only track a larger category of tobacco infractions. Any blank spaces indicate data was not made available for the corresponding years.

Credit: 13News Now
Credit: 13News Now