COLUMBUS—When it comes to tobacco use among kids, the statistics are alarming.

  • What kids are doing with e-cigarettes and vaping devices and how they're getting them is creating concern
  • Kids are getting high and modifying vaping devices
  • One JUUL pod is equal to 200 hundred hits of nicotine

In just one year, from 2017 to 2018, there was a 78-percent increase in high school students using e-cigarettes, according to the FDA.

But officials say they're even more concerned now because of what kids are doing with them and how they're getting into the hands of young students.

"This really came onto the market pretty strongly about a year ago," Lori Povisil, the Safe and Drug Free Schools coordinator for Worthington City Schools and chair for Drug Safe Worthington.

She's talking about vaping devices like the JUUL, which is popular with kids.

She shows a slew of confiscated devices, which include a Halo device that is about $150 and some e-pens.

Some of the confiscated paraphernalia look oily or slimy, which is her big concern.  

"My guess is that they have adapted, that this is liquid THC," she said. "Our deans and everyone now handles everything with gloves on because of the fear of fentanyl."

"Fentanyl was laced into three joints somewhere here in the county, so again we need to impress upon kids that you don't know what you're getting," Povisil went on to say. 

In Licking Heights, the district has had two incidents in the last few months where middle school and high school students have been hospitalized after getting ill from vaping.

Staff members were hospitalized in a separate incident from coming in contact with a vape device.

Povisil explains how kids are getting high and modifying these devices, which can be called dabbing or using dabs. 

"So dab is when people extract the THC oil," she said.  "They break down, they grind down the marijuana and they can actually mix it with butane and they cook it, it can be very dangerous, and they create this substance that looks like ear wax or bees wax.  So what's going to happen is kids are going to get high quicker and their high is going to last a lot longer because they have such a high concentration of THC."

While modifying vaping devices is a newer trend that is concerning schools, officials are still trying to battle the growing number of kids getting their hands on vaping devices in the first place.

"One [JUUL] pod is equal to 200 hundred hits of nicotine, which is equal to a pack of cigarettes," Povisil told Spectrum News 1. "It's just the easiest device for kids to get ahold of. They can go online."

While she says JUUL is working to make it harder for kids to buy them online by requiring an ID to be used, she says they would be naive to think kids aren't able to still get their hands on one. 

"Then kids who have them know someone else who wants them so they're little entrepreneurs and sell them."

She says some students are even getting them from their parents.

"Because they don't think that they have nicotine in them.  And the latest research, of 900 products that they tried, every single one of those had some dose of nicotine.  And again, nicotine is a deadly poison in its pure form and it just causes a fierce addiction," said Povisil.

But there are teams of people working to raise awareness, including the Prevention Action Alliance in Columbus. 

"I would like parents to know that the research is out," said Evi Roberts with Prevention Action Alliance.  "Vaping is not harmless.  It's not safe.  There have been emerging reports about vaping actually causing seizures.  We know that this is leading to conditions such as popcorn lung, which is this inflammation in the lung caused by, not by the nicotine, but by some of the flavors that are really popular with young people. "

"To me it's out of control," says Michelle Morse.  She writes the KNOW! parent tips for Prevention Action Alliance

"I feel like this vaping is starting a whole new generation of nicotine addicted teens," Morse said.  "I have two kids in high school right now and I've got one going into middle school, we're seeing it everywhere.  It doesn't matter how big or how small your high school is.  I think the same thing with the middle school.  It's everywhere.  It's happening in the classroom."

She says her kids say it's happening right behind teachers' backs.

"There's little to no order with it because the scents are fruity.  Plus, it's a little flash drive or it's a pen.  You would never even know," said Morse.

Her 14-year-old daughter, Shea, sees it.

When her mom asks, "Does this little device look scary to you to take a puff on?" Shea responds with, "Not at all."

A senior at Pickerington Central High, Caitlyn Robinson says kids are trying it "for something to do."

She also says it doesn't look intimidating to smoke.

"Not at all.  It looks just like a toy or something that anyone would be willing to try and use," said Robinson.

Robinson says kids even use it to help them with taking tests.

"To this day, a lot of people don't really understand the health consequences and the risks involved in using."

Povisil has seen that as well, saying nicotine is a stimulant that causes the students to feel more focused. 

She even says some girls are even using it as an appetite suppressant, just like how cigarettes used to be marketed to women many years ago.  

A very disturbing revelation this year is that the ages of kids vaping are getting younger and younger.

"This year, I've actually had a few referrals from our elementary level, grades 5 and 6," Povisil said. "To me, it's alarming."

"Elementary school students thinking that vaping is really cool, mimicking their older siblings in a similar way as candy cigarettes mimicked their parents," Roberts explained.

The biggest thing they recommend to parents is to get educated and to talk to their kids.

"Being able to prevent a young person from getting addicted to tobacco decreases their chances of getting addicted to other substances," Roberts emphasized. 

Meanwhile, many are continuing to call on the vaping industry to do more to keep their products from getting in the wrong hands.

"They're making the money, but at the cost of kids' health," Povisil said.

If you're concerned about your child, she says another thing to look for is their YouTube history. 

 A simple search of vaping tricks will reveal all these videos with different colored smoke and tricks.

 She says kids want to master those tricks so they can show to their friends and on social media.