Mid-Michigan school launches new program to stop teen vaping


    It smells like watermelon, it tastes like watermelon and some even look like a USB flash drive, or come as small as a pencil. We’re talking about vaping devices. And it’s an issue Shepherd Public Schools is cracking down on. (PHOTO: Alysia Burgio TV)

    SHEPHERD, Mich. - It smells like watermelon, it tastes like watermelon and some even look like a USB flash drive, or come as small as a pencil. We’re talking about vaping devices. And it’s an issue Shepherd Public Schools is cracking down on.

    “I didn’t realize this would be happening in our small town but then my oldest son we were talking about it and he’s concerned about it,” said Rhonda Cross.

    “It” being vaping, a growing trend among teenagers.

    Cross is a mom of two kids in the Shepherd School District and says she's relieved the school district has recognized the issue and is addressing it.

    “It’s a good idea,” Cross stated.

    So, how big of an issue is it?

    According to a study by the Federal Drug Administration, 1.5 million more students nationwide used electronic cigarettes in 2018 compared to 2017.

    And in the past year alone, vaping among high schoolers has increased 78 percent.

    “It’s an epidemic that I look at as a principal just as severe as the opioid crisis,” said Joe Passalacqua.

    Passalacqua, the High School Principal, says about half of his students use these devices.

    “The kids aren’t just doing it with nicotine, they potentially could be getting high,” he said.

    That's where “Catch My Breath" comes in. A program the school district has implemented to educate staff, students and parents on the risks and consequences involved with vaping.

    “We consider it basically to be a minor in possession of tobacco and in the state of Michigan as weird as it sounds an MIP tobacco is a misdemeanor,” said Shepherd Police Chief Luke Sawyer.

    But ultimately, for Chief Sawyer and Passalacqua, they hope parents become vigilant of these devices.

    “It’s ok for kids to fail but we don’t want them to fail at something that could potentially be harmful to them health wise, and harmful to them school wise, and harmful to them through the legal system either,” said Chief Sawyer.

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