Booneville High School Principal Amy Goers says vaping products cause her to lose sleep at night.
She intends to see it addressed sooner rather than later.
“I’m not going to wait around until one of our kids gets sick. We’re going to do something about it,” said Goers.
Goers along with a couple of juvenile detention officers from Logan County were among those in attendance at a Attorney General Leslie Rutledge vaping summit last week. What she learned won’t make rest any easier.
“They were trying to get educators, medical professionals, people who council kids, things like that to come because we need to educate students and we need to educate parents how dangerous this is,” said Goers. “They were stating with a lot of kids and a lot of parents they just think it’s heated up water that has some flavor in it, and it’s not.”
Goers said she was told there are currently more than 15,000 different flavors of vapes, as well as vapes with THC, the active chemical in cannabis.
“What happens is they get super heated and when you super heat everything you can get chemical reactions, and when you put it in your lungs and another chemical reaction can take place,” said Goers.
The principal also said the summit debunked any notion that the products are FDA approved.
“They might be FDA approved for ingestion, but they are not FDA approved to be inhaled,” Goers said she learned. “When you get these chemicals and super heat them, you’ve messed with the chemical balance. It was never meant to go in your lungs it was meant to go in your stomach so you stomach acids can break it down.”
Goers is helping formulate a plan to tackle vaping with the school district, to include revising the school district’s policy on the items.
“We’d like to set up a program through Western Arkansas Guidance and Counseling Center where these kids would be after school, or on a Staruday to talk about the dangers of vaping and these drugs that are going into these vapes,” said Goers.
Vaping products are definitely here. Goers said vape products are collected two or three times per week on the high school campus in Booneville. The junior high last week had its first vape watch.
That’s a product that looks something like a Fitbit, or similar device, for which the face pops off and the vape can be inhaled.
That’s despite a move that has made the legal purchase age for tobacco 21, with a few exceptions, which takes effect Sept. 1, 2020.
“I think everything is happening really fast, but I do think we have enough information to set a two-hour program with kids, talking about the dangers,” said Goers.
Those dangers include, she said, potential brain damage.
“They have targeted our kids. We’re talking 12-, 13-year olds, and when you develop nicotine to a developing brain it will cause different pathways to set up, so the normal pathways do not happen,” said Goers. “It’s altering their brains, it’s burning their lungs, it’s causing pneumonia, it scares me to death.”
Goers said the summit included information from the Mayo Clinic which took a look at pneumonia cases.
“You hear on the news these pneumonisa that are happening because of the oil coating on the lungs and they’re getting these crazy pneumonia that they haven’t seen before,” said Goers. “Now they’re taking biopsy of lung tissue when people are getting sick from these vapes and they’re seeing things that look like chemical burns, which makes sense because it is at such a high intense heat when they inhale it.”
Goers said she went with a question about second-hand smoke.
“They said it is showing nicotine levels in people from second hand smoke from vapes already,” Goers said.
That’s because, she was told, the nicotine levels in vapes are higher than traditional cigarettes.
“One Juul pod has as much nicotine as 20 cigarettes. One pod,” said Goers.
Vapes laced with the THC, Goers said, have been shown to be concentrated at more than 68 percent, compared to 19 percent of a typical joing in the 1970s.
“They had a box from California they confiscated in Benton or Bryant, and it had 30 THC pods in it. They tested it at the police department and it tested at more than 90 percent concentrate,” said Goers. “What we’re seeing is these kids are smoking it from other people. They don’t own the vapes, they’re just hitting it. You don’t know if they’ve laced it with something, or what in it. It could have TCH in it.
“Not to mention all the mono and flu and all the other things we have going on right now.”
Rutledge has helped pass laws that make online sales of pods illegal in Arkansas which demands a seller tell consumers they cannot ship to Arkansas.