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Student vaping becoming 'big issue'

Rep. Nick Bain talks to principals from the Alcorn School District about vaping among students.

Staff photo by Zack Steen

By Zack Steen


Catching a student vaping has turned into a daily occurrence in Alcorn County schools.

Outpacing dip, alcohol and cigarettes, hundreds of vaping related products have been confiscated from middle and high school students this year. It's alarming for administrators who are searching for a new way to stop these harmful products from getting into the hands of their students.

"It's became a big issue," said Kossuth Middle School Principal Alex Bondurant, who recently went to Rep. Nick Bain for help.

Bain said Bondurant came into his Kossuth office one day with a two-gallon bag full of vaping-related products and electric cigarettes known as Juul he had taken from KMS students.

"I had no idea it was this big of a problem," said Bain. "But this is bad "" it's like the cigarette of the 21st century."

On Tuesday, the Corinth legislator met with principals from Alcorn Central, Biggersville and Kossuth concerning the issue.

"I want to hear exactly what is happening "" you guys are on the front line of this and if something can be done statewide that can help control this issue, I want to do it," Bain told administrators.

Bondurant said he questions how the products are marketed.

"With names like unicorn and flavors like watermelon, to me it's clear this stuff is being targeted towards kids," he said. "And it seems like the fines should be more for those caught selling it to minors."

Bain said only the clerk is fined $50 for selling it to those under 18, but he'd like to see the store owner or distributor of the products also get fined.

"There could also be a change in how it is marketed inside a store "" placement of it under the counter or even certain advertisement restrictions," said the lawmaker. "We could look at increasing those fines and using that money for more student education on the damages of use or even drug testing more often in schools."

BHS Principal Pete Seago said some parents are to blame.

"I've got students vaping instead of smoking cigarettes only because their parents have told them it's better for them "" so the public needs education as much as the kids do," he said.

Bondurant said he's encountered parents who have even purchased vaping products for their children.

"We've called the parents after finding it on their child," he said. "All the parents are concerned with is getting their Juul back."

In March, sheriff's deputies conducted a backpack and locker search at all three county schools. They uncovered a large amount of vaping related products during the search.

Some principals said "it's a cool thing" and even A+ students and star athletes have been caught.

A concern for ACHS Principal Brandon Quinn is not knowing what exactly the student is smoking inside the Juul or vape device.

"THC, CBD ... any of that can be put inside these," said Quinn. "It's a big mystery a lot of times when we find one of these as to what exactly is in it."

Juul can't be purchased for under $50 and is found in local gas stations mainly, but can also be purchased online. The product looks like a small USB flash drive. The company promotes its product as "the smoking alternative, unlike any e-cigarette or vape," and comes in fruity and sweet flavors. A pod is the equivalent of an entire pack of cigarettes.

Bain said he has a similar meeting scheduled with city school officials in Corinth.