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Jones County cracking down on underage vaping

Schools heightening punishments and sheriff enforcing sales age
Published: Sep. 27, 2021 at 6:54 PM CDT
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JONES COUNTY, Miss. (WDAM) - Vaping is a huge trend among teens and Jones County law enforcement and schools are concerned. They reported seizing more than 100 vape devices recently.

Officer Jake Driskell, the Narcotics Director at Jones County Sheriff’s Department, says this is posing a health risk to kids since there are no state regulations on the contents of vapes.

“So the problem that we’ve had is we’ve had several students who have taken a hit, so to speak of a vape, and then passed out,” Driskell explains.

Driskell says most kids don’t know what they’re breathing in, and it’s expensive for the department to test every device for harmful substances.

“We were able to test one substance that was sold as CBD, or once we tested it this substance did not test for CBD it tested for vanadium, which is a heavy toxic metal ethylene glycol, which is basically antifreeze, and a lot of other harsh metals,” Driskell says.

Law enforcement and the Jones County Schools Superintendent agree the trend is mainly affecting teens.

Superintendent Tommy Parker says it’s plaguing the 7th through 12th grades.

“Just by the fact that Officer Driskell, who is considered a narcotics agent, is here talking about vapes should let our parents know just the seriousness of the vape itself. I think so many times that we think they’re just harmless, much less harmful than cigarettes, and we as a school district in the past have treated the vapes much like cigarettes,” Parker says.

Parker says the punishment for vaping is changing. It has been in-school suspension up until now. Going forward, the school district is ready to address breaking the vaping ban with consequences, including out-of-school suspension, or depending on the student’s previous disciplinary record, even expulsion.

Driskell says the sheriff’s department is working to stop the problem at the root - stores selling nicotine to underage kids.

“Currently we’ve got several stores that we’ve received lots of complaints on for selling to underage kids 21 and under. And we’ve actually bought from two of those stores here recently,” Driskell says. “And we’re going to place those people under arrest and charge them, you know it’s a misdemeanor crime for the first offense and the penalty does go up, but we’ve got to stop it.

“We’ve got to have people held accountable hold them accountable for what they’re doing, just like if you wouldn’t sell alcohol to a 20-year-old.”

JCSD is partnering with the school district to have information sessions about vaping with students and teachers. Both also ask that parents help by talking about the dangers at home with their kids.

“It’s not okay for your child to smoke or vape period and as a parent, you’re gonna have to start enforcing this at home. It is not up to us to enforce this at home, y’all need to make sure that your kids are doing the right thing too,” says Jones County Sheriff Joe Berlin.

Parker says it’s not just a Jones County problem, and he hopes more schools and parents will join the fight to educate and end vaping.

“It’s a universal problem not only just in our county but as I speak with other superintendents here in the pond belt, I think each and every school district is fighting a battle with the vaping and the vaping being conducted on their campuses and that their schools and placing their students in danger because so many times students really don’t know what’s contained in the bait that they have,” Parker says.

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