E-cigarette 'epidemic' affects Treasure Valley teenagers

Teens are reportedly even smoking them in class.
Posted at 10:27 PM, Sep 18, 2018
and last updated 2018-09-19 15:30:39-04

The U.S. Food and Drug Administration is cracking down on a problem that's reached "an epidemic proportion:" the growing use of e-cigarettes and vape pens by young people.

The flavored devices are commonly marketed as an alternative to cigarettes to help adult smokers quit. But one local school resource officer says Treasure Valley teenagers are becoming regular users, even causing nicotine addictions in middle school kids.

"It's become... It's almost like fidget spinners," said Meridian Police Officer David Gomez. "Everybody has to have one."

In only four weeks of the new school year, the Mountain View High School Resource Officer says he's given out at least 20 vape violations.

"Man, I'm getting 4.0 students who have never tried it before, who are trying it and getting hooked on the nicotine."

He says kids and teens are even smoking them in class.

"Parents don't understand that these actually have nicotine in them. So kids are getting nicotine addicted. They cannot make it through a class without having to smoke on a vape."

And as the devices get smaller and sleeker, they become easier to conceal.

"[Students] take a rubber band and they rubber band it around their risk with a long sleeve shirt. And they'll take a puff on it, and as long as they let the smoke out nice and slow-- nobody's gonna see it."

One of the most popular vape products, the Juul, recently raised their legal purchasing age from 18 to 21. But Gomez says, in the Treasure Valley, the trend has seen no signs of diminishing.

"We are seeing it in the middle schools, this summer we were getting kids, ya know, 12 years old, 13 years old, who have their own vapes already."

How are these kids getting their hands on these things?

Officer Gomez says it's pretty simple: he says, more often than not, they'll have a friend or a contact who is of legal purchasing age, to go into a store or online, purchase the product, and then redistribute them to minors.

"I would say 90% of the kids are buying them from 18-year-olds that they know."

FDA Commissioner Scott Gottlieb has declared youth vaping an "epidemic," and is stepping up efforts to thwart the illegal use of these products by minors.

"The best way to stop this is just going to be parents being on top of things," said Gomez. "Do car checks, do phone checks, do room checks. Because this is not something you want your kids starting."