Nebraska school district to test students for nicotine as vaping, smoking at school reaches 'epidemic proportions'
A school district in Nebraska is set to test students for nicotine without prior alerts in an attempt to tackle the growing "epidemic" of teens using e-cigarettes in its schools.
A three-school district of nearly 930 students, Fairbury Public Schools, last week approved the measure of adding nicotine to its list of banned substances for the tests randomly administered to the 387 students at Fairbury Junior-Senior High School.
According to Superintendent Stephen Grizzle, incidents of vaping at the school have been skyrocketing, according to Lincoln Journal Star.
"Vaping and smoking in our view is reaching epidemic proportions,” Grizzle, while talking to the newspaper, said.
"It’s just a way we can deter kids from potentially being addicted to nicotine. Since smoking and using vaping products are against our policies, it makes sense to include that," he added.
Any student at the school who currently participates in extracurricular activities is required to submit urine samples to be tested for illegal and performance-enhancing drugs.
Grizzle said that this policy has been in place for nearly two years, but now will be expanded to include nicotine starting this fall.
Nearly 60 percent of the student body participates in extracurricular activities and around 10 percent of those students submit samples if their student ID number is chosen in a lottery.
A failed test can reportedly result in a 10-day ban from extracurricular activities like sports teams and band practice.
The superintendent added that district officials made the latest move after e-cigarette use in the school reached a "tipping point” last year. "We want it to be a deterrent," he said of the new tests, adding: "Kids are under a whole lot of pressure to experiment with drugs or nicotine.”
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) statistics, use of e-cigarettes among high school students across the nation has increased from 1.5 percent in 2011 to 20.8 percent last year and from 0.6 percent to 4.9 percent among middle schoolers during that same span.
The percentage is equivalent to 1 in 5 high school students, or more than 3.05 million.
"Although e-cigarettes have the potential to benefit adult smokers if used as a complete substitute for combustible tobacco smoking, the use of any form of tobacco product among youths, including e-cigarettes, is unsafe,” the CDC said in November.
“The Surgeon General has concluded that e-cigarette use among youths and young adults is of public health concern; exposure to nicotine during adolescence can cause addiction and can harm the developing adolescent brain.”