That plume of white you see around e-cigarette smokers isn't smoke - it's vapor.
Vaping has become a popular way for smokers to receive nicotine without receiving the cancer-causing tar that's found in cigarettes. The purpose behind vaping is to help people kick the cigarette habit.
So then why is the vaping habit attracting school-age consumers?
Buddy Bailey, Assistant Superintendent at Rankin County Public Schools, showed us a table full of vaping materials confiscated from middle and high school students since the beginning of the school year.
Unlike most other metro area school districts, RCSD tracks e-cigarette violations separately from regular cigarette violations. This school year alone, Bailey says there have been 38 instances where students have used e-cigarettes or had e-cigarette paraphernalia at school.
"We are looking at it closer because it is a new phenomenon that comes at us. Young people try new things," Bailey says. "It is a suspendable offense. But our principals use discretion in whether it was a possession, use, or transmission of those devices."
Bailey believes other districts will soon start scrutinizing e-cigarette use as well, because as we learned in our investigation, some parents are buying e-cigarettes for their children.
"We never meant for this vaping thing to be cool. That's not our strategy. We're after the cigarette smokers," says Charlotte Thomas, owner of Vapor's Nest Vaporizer Store in Byram.
Thomas acknowledges that vaping liquid comes in kid-friendly flavors. She carries Apple Crack, Berry Crunch, and other flavors.
But Thomas says she follows Mississippi State law, never selling e-cigarettes or paraphernalia to anyone under 18, and adds that parents who buy for their children don't do so in her store.
"I'm gonna tell you where they're getting them. Totesem stores," she says. "Those children, if they're not vaping they're smoking. It's one of the two."
Charlotte says vaping helped her kick a lifelong habit of smoking, and swears by it. Her daughter even vapes and works at the store.
But a Jackson-based smoking cessation expert rejects vaping as an alternative to smoking cigarettes.
Dr. Thomas Payne of the ACT Center in Jackson says research has only just begun on the health risks. He says when the liquids propylene glycol and vegetable glycerines are heated, their chemical makeup changes.
"They're often advertised as safe constituents but that's not including what happens when you heat them, because they chemically change," Dr. Payne tells us "We are very concerned that kids who use e-cigarettes will move on to standard tobacco products over time. It's a new way in."
Dr. Payne says anyone who vapes, whether child or adult, risks becoming addicted to nicotine.
Dr. Payne adds that safe pharmaceuticals, paired with counseling, offer the healthiest and most effective pathways to smoking cessation.
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