Wake County Schools reminds students of dangers of vaping

RALEIGH, N.C. (WTVD) -- The Wake County School District is trying to extinguish the e-cigarette epidemic among teens. New signs are posted on campuses reminding students that the products are prohibited, and new coursework is slated for the upcoming school year.

New for the upcoming academic year, high school and middle school students will learn about the dangers of vaping during "Helpful Living" classes.

A district official said the coursework will include information on health risks, as well as youth marketing schemes.

According to the state's latest statistics, vaping use among high school students shot up 900 percent and 400 percent among middle school students.

"I'm not surprised by it, just because the availability and they're perceived as being safe," explained WakeMed Pulmonary Physician Dr. Daniel Fox.

He said that in the last year, 40 people have received care for vaping-induced problems and the majority of those patients were young adults.

"The young adults that we've seen on the adult side were 18, 19, 20, that should otherwise be in perfect health and they're ending up in our Step Down units, our ICUs, on life-support,a couple of them, because of the degree of lung injury we have seen with some of these devices," Fox said.

North Carolina is taking action and has become the first state in the country to sue e-cigarette maker JUUL.

The Attorney General said the company is targeting teens while misrepresenting the potency and danger of nicotine in its products

Medical professionals are urging parents to talk with their kids and also watch for symptoms that could lead to something bigger. Doctors said a vaping-related illness can look like a common cold or pneumonia.

"Even if that's casual use, we can see lung injury even at relatively low concentrations," Fox said.

E-Cigarette maker JUUL issued a statement to ABC11 on Thursday.

"JUUL Labs exists to help adult smokers switch from combustible cigarettes, which remain the leading cause of preventable death around the world. JUUL is an alternative that can help the 34 million adults in this country who still smoke. We do not want non-nicotine users to buy JUUL products, and are committed to preventing underage access to our products. We strongly support raising the national minimum purchasing age for all tobacco and vapor products to 21, and have implemented a comprehensive action plan to combat underage access, appeal, and use of JUUL products.

"We stopped the sale of non-tobacco and non-menthol based flavored JUULpods to our traditional retail store partners last year, enhanced our online age-verification, strengthened our retailer compliance and shut down our Facebook and Instagram accounts while working constantly to remove inappropriate social media content generated by others. We also continue to develop technologies to further restrict underage access with our distributors, at retail establishments and as features of potential new products."
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