New, smaller vaping devices popular with teens harder for parents and schools to detect

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MID-MICHIGAN (WJRT) (05/17/2018) - Teen vaping has been making headlines all across the country and teenagers right here in Mid-Michigan are not immune from what some are calling an epidemic.

We did some digging to find out what parents and teenagers need to know about this latest trend.

The retailers we spoke with told us they do not sell their products to anyone under the age of 18.

But the newer, smaller devices are more difficult for parents to detect when their kids are able to get their hands on them.

It's also an issue schools are grappling with as the technology is constantly changing. With just a click, and a push, vape shop Manager JIll Salsbury demonstrates how the Juul can be charged on any laptop.

"It's easy to carry around, you don't even notice it in your pocket, it's not like bulky or anything," said MSU student AJ Randazzo.

He began vaping at 18. He says it only takes him about a day or two to vape a pod that contains 5 percent nicotine.

"You can puff this 250 times, I guess that's equivalent to a pack of cigarettes for the nicotine content," he said. "I feel like you go through it faster than if you were like a heavy smoker."

High school health instructor Shannon Cumming is teaching about addiction, which includes the dangers of vaping nicotine.

"It's the most poisonous drug out there," Cumming said. "When you're doing those hits, it's like smoking a cigarette."

"They think it's just these little hits of the vapor and the moisture coming out that you see for two seconds, 'it's not hurting me', but it is hurting them," she said.

Swartz Creek Assistant Principal Tony Suchanek says they catch about ten to twenty students with vaping devices per year, but the real number is probably much higher.

"The ones that we're actually coming across are the Suorins," he said.

Grand Blanc Community Schools are also seeing these devices. The Suorin Air actually looks like a credit card.

"Definitely have seen the credit card style, because they very easily go into a wallet," said Grand Blanc High School Principal Michael Fray.

Keeping these devices out of the hands of students is getting harder.

"It's very very easy to conceal," Fray said. "That's what concerns us the most."

Fray said disciplinary action includes confiscating the devices and a 1 to 3 day out of school suspension. It's an infraction they take seriously.

"We know they can get marijuana or THC concentrate into these devices very easily," he said.

Fray offered this advice to parents:

"Be involved with your kids, have conversations with them, and have a conversation about what went on at school today," he said.

Rig City vape shop owner Troy Rider said the most popular reason for vaping among his customer base is to kick cigarettes. Some parents may be doing the same for their kids.

"We have found that adults, the parents, are purchasing it for their kids," Rider said.

A 17-year-old Flushing High School student said his parents are OK with him vaping.

"I used to smoke cigarettes but I stopped because my mom caught me," he said. "She'd rather have me doing this than smoke, you still get the nicotine buzz."

The flavor he's vaping on this particular day does not contain nicotine.

"I like the flavor, and just fun to do new tricks," he said.

He usually vapes outside of school, due to the fruity smell. He was smoking half a cigarette a day, but "a lot more" puffs on his vaping device.

Part of the attraction for teens seems to be the flavors, like blue raspberry, orange mango guava, and rainbow crash which tastes like skittles.

But Dr. Elfateh Seedahmed, a pulmonologist at Hurley Medical Center, warns some may contain a dangerous chemical.

"Some of the flavors they use for vaping also has chemicals like Diacetyl," he said. "Diacetyl is well described to cause significant lung disease like bronchiolitis obliterans, what they call the popcorn lungs."

"It's a significant lung disease," Seedahmed said. "It's manifested as shortness of breath, and can actually lead to death."

Seedahmed said while e-cigarettes contain fewer toxic substances than tobacco cigarettes, which contain about 79, the user is still exposing themselves to chemicals.

"Research is still ongoing about what other chemicals are in there that can harm the lungs, like propylene glycol," he said. "The long-term effects of that on the human body are still unknown, and researchers, they've very skeptical that it's actually harmless."

Administrators in the Lake Fenton schools aren't taking any chances.

Back in December they sent a letter home to parents of sixth through 12th graders outlining how they are cracking down on the use or possession of vaping devices.

"If the question is are we trying to be aggressive? Absolutely," said High School Principal Chris Belcher.

Students caught with a vaping device face a three-day suspension, student athletes have to sit out part of the season.

"It's a safety issue, it's a health issue and its keeping kids from getting their education in school," said Belcher.

For tips on how to talk with your kids about e-cigarettes just click on the link to the right of this story.

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