A recent Texas Tribune article addresses the drastic efforts of school districts statewide to combat vaping among students. Some schools are searching students to determine if they have vaping pens when they enter school buildings. Other schools are using vape-detecting sensors, drug-sniffing dogs, and sign-out procedures for restroom breaks to cut down on vaping among students.
Penalties for students also vary widely by school districts. Students vaping nicotine often risk suspension or removal from regular classes. In extreme cases, students are placed in alternative schools based on disciplinary problems. If students are vaping THC oils or waxes, which is the active ingredient in marijuana, however, the penalties are far harsher. Students may be subject to expulsion, but also may be subject to arrest for misdemeanor or even felony charges. Particularly for 17-year-olds, who are adults under Texas law for criminal offenses, a felony arrest for possession of a vaping pen containing an illegal drug can have significant consequences and create a permanent criminal record. For these students, a single criminal offense can substantially alter the outcome of their lives in creating barriers to employment, housing, and more.
In part, schools have had challenges responding to the vaping crisis among students due to minimal guidance from the state on how to address these issues. New vaping laws cannot go into effect at this point until 2021. The problem is, schools need guidance and instruction, rather than sometime next year.
Nationwide, vaping THC has become the new alternative to smoking pot. In states in which marijuana is legal, marijuana companies report that vaping products now make up 30% of their business.
Actions to crack down on teen vaping stem from the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) investigations last summer into severe lung injuries and deaths caused by vaping in otherwise healthy people. In the state of Texas, health officials documented 200 injuries and one death linked to vaping.
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