UPDATE: Vaping Epidemic continues among HS Students



A vape pictured next to a bathroom sign at Highlands High School.

Following the recent Hilltopper Article, “Vaping: The addictive epidemic ravaging Kentucky schools,” Highlands High School has seen another uptick in vaping and even marijuana in the school, specifically the bathrooms.

Vaping and smoking marijuana have many health effects on the user but can also cause inconveniences for school staff and teachers. Highlands Resource Officer Zac Rohlfer has been on the front lines of the epidemic.

“Everyone knows how to hide one, you’re not walking into this school through a metal detector, you’re not being strip searched.” 

That is one of the reasons controlling these substances has been so problematic for school administrators. 

“Vaping, whether that’s nicotine or THC, in both forms are completely different from say when I went to school, if you were going to go smoke weed in the bathroom or you wanted to go smoke a cigarette somewhere, it was going to smell like that,” said Rohlfer.

As if an undetectable drug wasn’t bad enough, the health effects that go along with it are devastating. 

“Marijuana has 50% more of one and 75% more of another of the top two carcinogens in tobacco,” said HHS Health Teacher Michael Code.

The teen vaping epidemic has been raging ever since e-cigarettes were brought onto the market. However, the spike in school marijuana use is relatively recent.

“In Michigan it’s fully legal, so if you and I left here right now we can be at the border of Michigan in three and a half hours, so there’s an area just three and a half hours away where if you’re 18 you can go buy all the THC that you want and bring it right back down to Kentucky.” said Rohlfer.

Students frequently use 18 year old or older siblings to get their hands on marijuana and vapes.

Michigan only legalized Marijuana in 2018 which goes to show how recent this surge in usage is. THC is still illegal in Kentucky so underage individuals can be in legal trouble for being caught with the drug.  

“I think what happens most inside of school is that kids just share the same vape, which is kind of disgusting to me,” said Rohlfer.

Individuals who decide to smoke marijuana are putting themselves up for more health issues than they may think.

“The marijuana that is available today is more potent, it is often laced with things. If someone has a weak package, they’ll give it some kick, and to give it some kick they’ll lace it with heroin, fentanyl, formaldehyde, crack,” said Code.

Even if students decide to suffer the health effects, the school is still willing to hand out punishments.

Vaping nicotine is not as much of a legal issue as THC so Rohlfer isn’t as likely to be involved, nicotine cases are left to staff, such as, HHS Assistant Principal Jennifer Forgy.

“I have a test kit so I can test it, so I know whether it is nicotine or THC, and if it is THC then what I say to students is you can take a ten day suspension or I will cut it down to five days if you agree to do drug counseling.” 

According to Forgy, the school’s goal is to make students aware of the dangers of both nicotine and marijuana.

If students don’t realize the dangers the repercussions are clearly outlined by the school.

The HHS student handbook states that students in possession of “Drugs, Alcohol And Other Prohibited Substances,” substances will face “up to 10 days out of school suspension or expulsion.”

Students who choose to vape nicotine or marijuana will face consequences whether it is from a suspension or a hospital bed.