The Sidney Sun-Telegraph - Serving proudly since 1873 as the beautiful Nebraska Panhandle's first newspaper

By Forrest Hershberger
Sidney Sun-Telegraph 

Sidney School Officials See Trend in Electronic Tobacco Use


Smoking and tobacco use among youth is not a new issue. For some, it is symbolic rebellion. For others, they may not even know why they smoke.

What is known is tobacco use is not allowed on or in a public school facility. Research is also showing teens are attracted to electronic delivery of nicotine and other products, using methods including vaping, e-cigs and Juul (name brand). Juul’s website says its product is designed for smokers, using a device that is “a vaporizer that has regulated temperature control and uses a JUULpod filled with proprietary e-liquid formation that combines glycerol, propylene glycol, natural oils, extracts, flavor, nicotine and benzoic acid.”

The problem school officials are encountering, according to Sidney Principal Chris Arent, is the device is easy to conceal. The JUULpod looks similar to a small flash drive or memory stick. In a recent school board work session, Arent explained to the board the units can be hidden within a closed hand. He said the use of JUULs is more complicated in that besides a trained law enforcement official, few people can identify by sight what is in the container. Arent said users have discovered ways to refill the pods

The National Institute on Drug Abuse says teens are more like to use e-cigarettes than cigarettes. Furthermore, teens who are e-cig users are more likely to start smoking. The study says that seven in 10 teens are exposed to advertisements encouraging e-cig use.

Arent said Monday while cigarette use may be going down, e-cig use is climbing. He said in 2016-2017, there were only four documented instances of tobacco use on campus. He said the trend is for those number to increase.

The school approved a random drug testing policy in 2012, enacted in 2013. The policy requires any student who is involved in extracurricular activities to consent to random drug testing. Arent said parents can add their teens to the random drug testing program, even if they are not in extracurricular activities.

In the 2016 results of the Nebraska Risk and Protective Factor Student Survey, the latest study available to the Sidney School District, almost 58 percent of the seniors in the 232 students surveyed were defined as “lifetime electronic vapor use,” and almost 13 percent were “current Electronic Vapor Users.”In the 10th grade students, 28 percent were “lifetime Electronic Vapor users” and 14 percent were “Current Electronic Vapor Use. The research also found that 37.5 percent of seniors surveyed were Lifetime Marijuana Use” and 15 percent were “Current Marijuana Use.”

Arent said mental health has been the leading concern in public schools. The use of tobacco and other products in electronic devices is quickly keeping pace with mental health issues, he said. He said the concern is what marijuana and tobacco do to the brain during teenage development.

He added that while some students are of the legal age to use tobacco, they are still expected to follow the code of conduct while on campus, just as staff are.


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