Teens finding more ways to hide vaping at home and in school

PITTSBURGH — It’s easy to get. It’s easy to hide. Under-age kids have all kinds of access to vaped products, and there’s no shortage of new, inventive ways for them to hide the habit.

Rebecca Kishlock from the nonprofit organization Breathe PA demonstrated some of the techniques kids are using to Channel 11′s Lisa Sylvester, showing her both a kid’s V-Tech watch and a vaping watch. Both appeared almost identical.

“It even shows the time, but beneath the face is a vaping device,” said Kishlock.

It’s not just watches… backpacks, even ponytail holders have secret compartments for hiding vaping devices, leaving parents and the school administrators in the dark.

Breathe PA runs a diversionary program for kids who are caught vaping in school. Most of their referrals are 7th and 8th graders and they’re seeing them even younger.

“I think the youngest that we’ve had overall since I’ve been involved is 7. We’ve had a 7-year-old,” said Kishlock.

And it’s not just nicotine.

According to a 2022 study in JAMA, teen vaping of marijuana doubled between 2013 and 2020.

The devices kids are using to get high have changed over time, from a bong to the more discreet weed pens. But another big change is the potency.

“The average marijuana leaf or bud that people would smoke in the 90s was maybe 4% THC level. Today the marijuana in vapes can be up to 95% THC levels. and that’s why you see kids who are overdosing and having seizures or having medical issues,” said Susan Stover, Butler County Deputy Director of Juvenile Court Services.

“We had one in particular who was in here and he was vomiting all day in our office. I think he had like 11,000 nanograms in his system which was astronomical. That’s toxic levels.”

Over the long term the CDC says, “Marijuana use in teen years may affect brain development which may impair thinking memory and learning.”

On the other hand, there is an anti-vaping trend starting on social media, with kids publicly giving up their vaping devices. And more schools, like Butler High School, have installed vape detectors to crack down on the problem.

For parents, Kishlock says the first step is open communication with your kids.

“It’s really easy to say, ‘No don’t use a product without backing.’ But you want to provide the facts, the resources of what could happen,” she said.

One other suggestion for parents: if you suspect a vape shop is selling products to minors, you can email the Pennsylvania Department of Health at RA-DHTobaccoSales@pa.gov.

Click here for more information for parents.

Click here for more information on tobacco sales to underage teens.

Click here for more information on health impacts.

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