Local schools see vaping epidemic, confiscation increases of e-cigarettes and vaping devices

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Okemos and Williamston High School students started noticing a few years ago an increase in vaping in as well as after school, which mirrors what teenagers and adults are seeing across the country.

Vaping in the U.S.

The U.S. Surgeon General Vice Adm. Jerome M. Adams issued an advisory in December 2018 that called e-cigarette use by children an “epidemic” that needed to be staved off because of health risks related to nicotine use that he said may lead to an addiction that could last a lifetime.

“The percentage of high school-age children reporting past 30-day use of e-cigarettes rose by more than 75 percent between 2017 and 2018,” according to data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and the Food and Drug Administration’s National Youth Tobacco Survey. “Use among middle school-age children also increased nearly 50 percent.”

For the first time, Dr. Sarper Taskiran of the Child Mind Institute, a national nonprofit based in New York City, saw a year and a half ago a teenager vaping.

“I knew they were developing these things, and I kind of saw them on the street, but I didn’t think this was a huge issue at the time although I was reading the reports,” he said. “After I saw that, I started to ask more and more, the more I started to hear about teens vaping in the bathrooms, the locker rooms and how much prevalence it was in schools and New York City.”

Vaping in Okemos and Williamston


Of the 34 students at Okemos High School who responded to a survey, 19 or nearly 60 percent reported their school had a vaping culture. (Credit: Heidi Vanderbeek)



“The culture around it, and I have seen some monster monstrosity assemblies of things that people are smoking out of, I don’t get it,” said Dan Garijo, an Okemos resident and parent. “ It doesn’t make sense to me. I don’t know what they’re smoking. I don’t know why they’re smoking it. How its become a whole culture.”

The idea of vaping itself has not only grown more popular, but what you can do to show off with a vape.

Because of the nature of the “cloud”, many students are trying vaping because of the recent trend and idea that it is cool. Besides just blowing the vapor out, individuals have developed tricks to impress their peers. (Credit: Heidi Vanderbeek)

Vaping has become more popular and promoted on social media to the point where there is a culture surrounding those who use the substance. This has led to vaping in schools to show off to other students.

Behind the glass at the Smoke House, 514 S Grand Ave. in Fowlerville, sit many different vape products and flavors for clients above the age of 21. (Credit: Annie Barker)

Vaping was initially created to help adults find a substitute to cigarettes. Part of the appeal of vaping to younger generations is the variety of flavors of vape juice.

Five students at Okemos who admitted to vaping were asked what their favorite juice flavor was. The most popular answer was orange. (Credit: Heidi Vanderbeek)


Smoke House owner Lisa Stebbings has made efforts in her business like increasing the age to enter to help decrease teenage vaping. She decided to make this change when no one at her son’s school could tell her how he got a hold of his vapes. (Credit: Annie Barker)

“It’s just been weed to vaping,” said Drew Hubble, an Okemos High School student. “Vaping is a lot more inconspicuous. I don’t feel like there’s been more issues. There’s so much more equipment and plus you need a lighter. With that you just have a little pen. That’s all.”

Just three of 15 vapes out of the collection Assistant Principal of Williamston High School Mike Freeman has confiscated from some of his students. In his 14 years at Williamston, he said that he has never seen something so hard to crack down on. However, the staff at his school is starting to pick up signs of students who vape and add a lesson to the health class. (Credit: Annie Barker).


Due to the small nature in many of vapes, local high schools like Williamston and Okemos High Schools, have been confiscating these at an increased rate at their schools.  (Credit: Annie Barker)

Accessibility to the materials also influences high schoolers and middle schoolers. East Lansing is a college town that advertises to adults, but gives access to the younger students. An older individual can become a supplier and purchase a vape for a student.

Since the nearest vape shop to Okemos High School is 1.5 miles away, it makes it easier for students to purchase these substances or give money to someone who can purchase it for them. Credit: Annie Barker

“I try to have them understand how much the device is in control whereas they think they’re in control,” Taskiran said. “When they are studying in their rooms they can’t really study or do anything if they’re out of their Juul pods. They have to go outside and get them even if it is freezing cold.”


Caption: Statistics from an anonymous survey sent to Okemos High School that show 34 students responded to various questions asked about vaping at the high school level. (Credit: Annie Barker)

Students who responded to our survey said they were unsure how the administration should handle vaping in school. An anonymous student said it seems that striking a balance will prove difficult.

A quote from an anonymous High School Student who spoke on what should be done about vaping in schools. Credit: Annie Barker


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