GALLATIN, Tenn. (WKRN) — School resource officers across Middle Tennessee have a warning for parents. Students — some as young as elementary school-age — vape.
The use of battery-powered smoking devices has spiked in popularity, thanks in part to the addictive chemicals disguised with tasty flavors.
Sumner County Sheriff, Sonny Weatherford, isn’t the only law enforcement officer concerned about the number of children using vape pens. “Vaping has been unreal, compared to the prior years.”
Deputy Autumn Wood, the school resource officer for Charlotte Middle School, agreed. “Honestly it started back in 5th grade, children selling vapes on the playground.”
Children consume the smokeless fruity flavors from cartridges covered in fun designs that mask the true dangers. According to the American Lung Association, many of the e-liquids contain the highly addictive chemical nicotine that may cause serious lung damage, slow brain development, affect memory, concentration, self-control, and mood.
“We do have a lot of THC,” explained Lt. Tommy Greer with the Sumner County Sheriff’s Office.
The addition of drugs to the juice adds another layer of danger that is difficult to detect.
“Here in Gallatin, I stated that a student had to be taken to the hospital from vaping,” Weatherford said. “They’re overdosing.”
Spotting these vape pens has also become more challenging. “These kids are smart they know where to hide the stuff,” Wood said. “They put it in areas we don’t search.”
“We confiscated one that looked like a watch,” explained Dr. Justin Barden, principal of Charlotte Middle School. “So you just took the watch face off and it was a vape.”
In Tennessee, you must be 21 years old to use e-cigarettes and law enforcement isn’t giving any second chances.
“I personally automatically charge the first time and it goes down to the juvenile court,” said Wood.
Crime in school is evolving and educators are concerned – News 2 is investigating what school districts are doing about it. Find more special reports on Crime in School on WKRN.com.
In the case of a student caught with drugs in his vape pen, Weatherford said, “We actually charged him with simple possession.”
Educators are now urging parents to talk to their kids about the dangers and repercussions of vaping.