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The days of easily catching students smoking at school by picking up on the scent or sight of smoke are pretty much over.

Vaping, and an even newer variation called Juuling, now make it much tougher for school officials to catch on to students ingesting nicotine, marijuana or other drugs, even when it's occurring right in the building, according to Michael Wagner, director of toxicology at Witham Toxicology Laboratory in Lebanon, Indiana.

There is also an enhanced threat to students in that these sleek e-cigarettes are marketed with young people in mind and deliver the desired drug to their still-developing minds with much more intensity than traditional forms of smoking, he said.

"It could turn into another type of epidemic," Wagner said.

Porter County Sheriff Dave Reynolds and members of the county's safe schools commission are attempting to get ahead of the problem.

"We need to inform the public, primarily parents, what is going on regarding the Juuling throughout the county," Reynolds said. "Also we need to inform the students, with Dr. Wagner, (about) the negative physical effects of Juuling."

Police are responding to the problem by training their dogs to notify handlers when they pick up on the scent of THC (marijuana) oils, known as dabs, which are used in the vaping and Juuling process, he said.

Reynolds said he met Wagner at this past summer's statewide opioid summit and struck up the conversation about about Juuling.

Wagner, who is helping to present a drug awareness program at Lebanon High School, said Juuling is a little different than vaping in that the device used appears very similar to a USB flash drive, but is a little longer. This can make it tough for school officials to immediately notice it and be aware something is up in the classroom.

Like vaping, Juuling works with a heated coil that combusts the oil for inhalation, he said. There is far less smell or visible output than traditional cigarettes that rely on burning plant matter.

At the same time, the oils and solutions used by these vaping devices are far more concentrated with nicotine, THC or other drugs, Wagner said. This poses a greater threat of addiction or other problems, particularly among young people, whose brains are still developing.

Young people also are more vulnerable because these vaping and Juuling products are marketed directly to them with the sleek designs of the vaping devices and candy-flavored versions of the vaping solutions and oils, he said.

While traditional smoking has built-in deterrents such as coughing and other initial health ailments, the same is not as true with vaping and Juuling, Wagner said.

Reynolds said he would like to see Wagner talk to students in the county about these threats. There also is talk about the possibility of implementing random drug testing in the schools.


Porter/LaPorte County Courts and Social Justice Reporter

Bob is a 23-year veteran of The Times. He covers county government and courts in Porter County, federal courts, police news and regional issues. He also created the Vegan in the Region blog, is an Indiana University grad and lifelong region resident.