Students find 'creative' ways to hide vaping devices at school

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BRIDGEPORT, W.Va. (WDTV) -- Vaping is a problem schools across North Central West Virginia tackle every day.

A box of vaping products confiscated from Bridgeport High School since the beginning of last year. School officials say vaping is a problem that's increasingly hard to solve as students find different ways to hide their devices. (Photo: WDTV)

Officials at Bridgeport High School say it's a problem that's increasingly hard to solve as students find different ways to hide their devices.

Jamie Hamrick is the Bridgeport High School Prevention Resource Officer. She has a plastic box in her police car full of vaping and tobacco products she's confiscated from students since the beginning of last school year.

"We've caught them in the bathroom, in the gym, and in the classroom in years past," Hamrick said."

Nearly two million more middle and high school students used e-cigarettes in 2019 compared to 2018, according to recent CDC data.

Hamrick has found devices like vape pens and Juul pods in all corners of the school grounds from students' cars to their lockers.

"They've gotten very creative in where they put them so they know we can't search," Hamrick said. "Trying to find them has proven very difficult."

While her box is nearly full, she said the number of devices school officials have confiscated this year is actually down.

But the decreasing number of devices getting added to the box doesn't mean the number of students using them has declined.

"They know where we're lurking, so they're putting them in different places," Hamrick said. "They've caught onto what we're doing and how we've detected them in years past, so they're getting more creative."

Hamrick said every device confiscated is tested for substances such as THC. Liquid nicotine products are most common amongst students, she's found.

While teachers and school resource officers continue their education and prevention efforts, Hamrick said parents need to be on the lookout as the devices change and become smaller in size.

"They look like a flash drive," she said of some e-cigarette devices. "Sometimes parents believe when their child tells them that's what it is. They need to know what they're looking for."

As for the students, her message is to stop while they can.

"You may be getting addicted and not know it," Hamrick said. "It's something we can work with you to quit now before it becomes a bigger problem."