PLACERVILLE (CBS13) – The number of vaping-related illnesses in the United States continues to climb. There have been 530 cases of lung problems in the U.S. linked to e-cigarettes, according to the CDC.
Health officials are working to define a clear cause or connection between the cases. Vaping illnesses have been linked to seven deaths, including two in California.
One local school district is investing thousands of dollars to end vaping at school.
Imagine being able to track, in real-time, when and where kids are vaping at school. Placerville police were given $395,000 for new technology that does exactly that. Detectors that can sense chemicals coming from a vaping device will be installed in places like school locker rooms and bathrooms. When it detects the chemical an alert will be sent straight to school employees.
“The ability to to take action as soon as its happening will help us being able to take care of the problem immediately,” said Terry Edinger, principal at Edwin Markham Middle School.
Several of the detectors, called “Fly Sense”, will be installed at Markham Middle School. Edinger said vaping is a problem even with kids this young.
“There are small pockets of student groups who will participate in it and they are very confident in their ignorance,” she said.
Federal health officials have documented more than 500 cases of people getting sick from vaping, most of them are under 25 years old.
‘We have issues every week that we are dealing with vaping devices in the schools,” said Placerville Police Commander Kim Nida.
The grant given to Placerville police comes from Prop 56 funds or cigarette taxes. Other than new technology, police plan to spend the grant money on manpower, enforcement at vape shops, and anti-vaping education inside schools. This where Officer Bethany Ulm comes in.
“I hear from a lot of the kids…one of the most common themes is that they think it’s cool,” Ulm said.
Ulm said she’s up against an industry that is naturally attractive to teens.
With roughly 15,000 e-cigarette flavors that cater to kids, her job is to show why smoking “cotton candy” or “unicorn” flavors is not cool.
“When they learn about the health risks associated with vaping, it will open up their eyes drastically and that will hopefully empower them to take that step to say it’s not worth it,” Ulm said.
Edinger said it’s important to target kids as young as 11 to ensure they don’t pick up a bad habit. She said her students are keeping an eye on each other.
“Oftentimes reports are coming from other students because they don’t want it here so we’re very fortunate for that,” Edinger said.
The program is still in its early stages. Placerville police are gathering data to monitor results and they hope those results inspire other districts to apply for the same grant money.