As part of an effort to combat the wave of increasing JUUL and vape use among teens, one school district in Nebraska is going to start testing students for nicotine use. The school district says that, in response to a spike in the use of e-cigarettes, students will be tested if they participate in extracurricular activities.

Stephen Grizzle, superintendent of Fairbury Public Schools, told USA Today that the district has seen a significant increase in disciplinary action related to vaping and smoking in the past year. There were 30 incidents during the past school year in the junior-senior high school, while there were only seven incidents the year before. When Superintendent Grizzle spoke with the Lincoln Journal Star, he said it’s the view of the district that there is a vaping epidemic.

Superintendent Grizzle isn’t alone in this view. Then-Food and Drug Administration Commissioner Scot Gottlieb declared teen vaping an epidemic last September. At that time, he announced a set of steps the FDA was planning to take against manufacturers of e-cigarettes.  

Students participating in extracurricular activities already agree to be tested for some substances. The new policy regarding nicotine drug tests was just approved and took effect this academic year. Grizzle says anywhere from 20 to 25 students will be randomly selected for testing at any given time, around nine times throughout the school year.

He says if a student’s test results are positive, there will be varying consequences. Grizzle defended against claims that tests are intrusive, saying his goal is to give students an additional way to say no to peer pressure. Nebraska lawmakers recently also raised the legal age to buy e-cigarette products from 18 to 19.

Increase in JUULing Among Teens

Nebraska isn’t the only state working to combat the significant increase in JUULing in school and vaping statistics that show rising use among young people. The National Institute on Drug Abuse conducts a survey called Monitoring the Future or MTF that showed a significant spike in the use of vaping devices among teens. More than 37% of surveyed 12 graders said they’d participated in “any vaping” within the past 12 months. That was up from 27.8% in 2017. Self-reported use of vaping nicotine in the past 30 days went up from 11% in 2017 to 20.9% in 2018.

More than 1 in 10 eighth-graders said they’d vaped nicotine in the previous year. Marijuana vaping was also reportedly on the rise.

Dr. Nora D. Volkow, director of the National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA), said the research shows teens are attracted to the technology and marketing of vaping devices. She also pointed out how important it is for teens to understand the potential effects of vaping. For example, she highlights that teens who vape may be more likely to also start using traditional cigarettes.

Drug Testing in Schools

The move by the Nebraska school district highlights another trend along with the rise in vaping. It also brings up the debate on drug testing in schools and how to prevent drug abuse among youth. More districts around the country are implementing drug testing for extracurricular activities, but not everyone thinks it’s the best way to keep teens from abusing substances.

While random drug testing is legal, results are mixed as far as effectiveness, according to NIDA research. Most do agree that drug testing on its own is not a strategy to reduce substance misuse among teens and in schools and that it needs to be paired with drug education and prevention programs.

If you have concerns about your teen’s potential substance misuse, we encourage you to contact us at The Recovery Village. We offer tailored treatment for substance use disorders.

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