NORWAY — Oxford Hills School District officials and police are taking steps to combat the increasing use by students of e-cigarettes and food products laced with marijuana.

Dan Hart, principal of Guy E. Rowe Elementary school in Norway, said two members of his staff will work with fourth-, fifth- and sixth-graders next week to educate them on the dangers of ingesting the products.

The move comes after one boy was recently taken to a hospital after ingesting gummy bears, possibly containing cannabinoid, an active chemical in medical marijuana. And four sixth-graders were recently identified by school resource officer Mitch Shaw as inhaling vapor from e-cigarettes and possessing “vape juice,” the liquid in e-cigarettes that’s heated for inhalation.

“We have Michelle O’Kane, our school counselor and a part-time social worker, Margaret Brennan, who are addressing these types of issues,” Hart said. “After vacation they will be working with the fourth, fifth and sixth grades about vaping.”

Emily Eastman, tobacco educator for Healthy Oxford Hills, will also work with the students, he said.

Hart said he’s frustrated with manufacturers of vaping materials marketing to children, especially through signs and flavors that appeal to them.

Elementary school supplies? From left, e-juice, vape, cotton candy-flavored vape retrieved from sixth-grade students at Guy E. Rowe Elementary School and a 14-year-old.

But his school is not the only one in the eight-town district that is dealing with the problem.

At Oxford Hills Middle School in Paris, Principal Paul Bickford said there has been “a huge uptick in vaping. We had a limited number of cases last year but more occurrences this year.”

Bickford stressed that education is a key element in combating substance abuse.

“As with anything that’s new, there’s a learning curve for adults, as well,” he said. “We have posters in the bathrooms, and the more we are aware and better educated, the better off we are.”

Tim Holland, school resource officer at the middle and high schools, said marijuana-laced edibles are an issue in both schools.

“I ran out of test kits,” he said, and every test has been positive for marijuana.

Vaping, however, “seems to be dwindling,” he said, with about half a dozen case this year. “We had a lot the first half of the year and last year,” but he’s hearing that students are not into it as much now.

“Last year it was edibles,” he said, adding that students get them from home and from friends.

“They’re at the age when their thinking brain is out to lunch, they are experimenting,” he said. “it might be on the rise.”

He held up a dab pen containing a concentrated liquid THC, the principal psychoactive ingredient of cannabis. The pen is smoked like an e-cigarette.

He said among the paraphernalia confiscated at schools are a dozen or so e-cigaretttes, dab pens, pipes and marijuana.

A dap pen confiscated at Oxford Hills Comprehensive High School in Paris.

 

 

 

SUPERINTENDENT CONCERNED

SAD 17 Superintendent Rick Colpitts said he’s hearing about vaping use in the middle and high school, which “poses an incredible health risk. We see it as a significant issue.”

According to Eastman, e-cigarettes are the most commonly used tobacco product in the United States among high school students. She said the nicotine in e-cigarettes can also prime the adolescent brain for addiction to other drugs.

Vape — the aerosol inhaled from e-cigarettes — is not harmless, Eastman said. It contains volatile organic compounds, ultra-fine particles, nicotine, heavy metals, cancer-causing chemicals and flavorings, one of which has been linked to a serious lung disease.

According to the National Institute of Health, “The (Federal Drug Administration) has become aware that some people who use e-cigarettes have experienced seizures, with most reports involving youth or young adult users. Seizures or convulsions are known potential side effects of nicotine toxicity.”

Eastman told SAD 17 directors recently that in Maine alone, tobacco companies spend more than $46 million to target and gain new customers.

“The base of our business is the high school student,” according to Lorillard tobacco company, which merged with Reynolds in 2015.

Companies advertise flavors attractive to children such as “gummy bear,” “cotton candy,” “banana split,” “sweet tarts,” “Hawaiian punch,” and use names such as “George,” “Daisy Duck” and “Poppa Smurf.”

Dr. Scott Gottlieb, commissioner of the FDA, issued a warning to manufacturers in 2018: “No child should be using any tobacco product, and no tobacco products should be marketed in a way that endangers kids — especially by using imagery that misleads them into thinking the products are things they’d eat or drink.”

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