BETHALTO, Ill. – The Bethalto Illinois School District is laying down the law when it comes to students vaping.
From now on, if a student is caught using an electronic cigarette, they’ll be ticketed and go to court.
Civic Memorial High School Principal Justin Newell said he was approached by a parent whose child’s school life was being damaged by large crowds of students vaping so much.
“Her child did not even have the ability to go to the bathroom because students were vaping in there,” he said.
Newell said they tried in-school suspensions to put a stop to vaping but that didn’t work.
“(The students) meet with our village attorney and usually a judge and they decide what kind of punishment,” said Bethalto police Officer Brock Cato.
That could mean a fine and a big inconvenience for parents. Dr. Jill Griffin, the district superintendent, said it’s all about students’ health.
“It is just genuine care and concern for our kids,” she said.
Experts said no one knows exactly what young people are inhaling when they vape.
“These electronic cigarettes have any number of chemicals that can be toxic to the lung,” said Dr. Tom Ferkol is a Washington University Pediatrician. “There are heavy metal some studies have found that bacterial and fungal contaminants all of which can do harm.”
Although there has been no direct scientific link to vaping, some people who vape have been hospitalized. An Illinois person even died after vaping.
A student by the National Vape Association suggests those respiratory illnesses could be caused by the use of black market vaping cartridges that contain chemicals found in marijuana.
School officials recovered 67 electronic cigarette devices last year at Civic Memorial High. In the first 10 days of the school year, the SRO officer recovered nine pieces of vaping equipment or nicotine products. They believe the new get-tough program will result in kids cutting down on vaping.
Student Wyatt Cooper has seen a drop.
“Personally, I have seen a reduction in visible use,” he said.
Student Mary Jae Kirby is skeptical the new policy will make a difference.
“I think if people want to vape they’ll do it anyway,” she said. “If they have that mentality that they want to, I don’t think they’ll be able to stop them.”