COPPELL, Texas (CBSDFW.COM) – North Texas school districts are grappling with how to address vaping as a growing number of deaths and illnesses are linked to the trend popular among teens.
Many, including Coppell and Allen, have already sent letters to parents this school year, urging them to start conversations with their teens.
“Many school districts, including CISD, are seeing a significant increase in the use of e-cigarettes,” Superintendent Brad Hunt wrote.
Dallas County Health and Human Services reports the number of severe lung disease cases associated with e-cigarette use in Dallas County has now jumped to 14.
At least half of those patients are teenagers, according to the department’s director, Dr. Philip Huang.
“My daughter almost died,” said Jennifer Audas from Children’s Medical Center in Dallas.
Her 17-year old-daughter, Witney, is on a ventilator, unable to breathe on her own.
The teen from Tyler has a severe lung injury her mother believes was caused by vaping.
“It’s very emotional and it’s very, um, heart-wrenching,” said Audas.
Derek Peterson, the CEO of Soter Technologies, sells sensors that detect vaping in school bathrooms and locker rooms. “You can’t have a camera in a bathroom. You can’t have a microphone in a bathroom. Kids are going in places where you can’t put these things,” said Peterson.
The sensors send an alert to an administrator’s cellphone when they detect a chemical signature in the air unique to vaping. They’ve been so popular in Texas, he said, the company is looking at opening an office in Dallas.
He said he’s already sold the devices to more than a thousand schools across the country.
“On some rare occasions, we have some elementary schools, and we’re thinking ‘Oh my God, we can’t believe it,’” he said.
In North Texas, Coppell ISD said it began using this type of technology in its high school last year.
With that and other tactics, it seized more than a hundred devices students use to vape.
The biggest obstacle, according to government agencies studying the problem, has been a lack of awareness. They report many teens, and even adults, don’t believe vaping is dangerous.