EDINBURG - Two words, one letter - V.I.P. and Vape, that is what the senior class at Robert Vela High School were taught at Tuesday’s, Nov. 19, awareness campaign.

What has become the “norm” in high schools across the state and country is harming those who take part in using vape pens or E-cigs. Edinburg CISD police department wanted to take a proactive approach to help inform the students on the dangers of smoking those products.

“In 2016 [ECISD PD] only had one vape product confiscated,” said Ricardo Perez Jr., ECISD Chief of Police. “In 2019 that number increased to 116 cases of vape pens.”

Chief Perez shared the effects of what a tobacco product could have on one’s health and legal record. To support this, the Center for Disease Control (CDC) has confirmed 42 deaths in the country linked to vaping and shares the consequences one can face.

“First of all, you have to be 21 and older to be in possession of a tobacco product. A Class C misdemeanor by adults 21 and over is when you are in possession of a tobacco product on school grounds with a fine not to exceed $500,” Cheif Perez said. “Possession of a product with THC (tetrahydrocannabinol) is a state jail felony with a second degree based on the aggregate weight.”

He also adds that possession, purchase, consumption or receipt of cigarettes, e-cigarettes or tobacco products by a minor (16 and under) will be charged with a Class C misdemeanor with an asset fine of $4,000 or a year spent in juvenile jail.

The effects of vaping also hits close to home with 10 cases on file related to the tobacco product.

Mission, TX resident, Jaydee Hernandez was put into an induced coma after getting shortness of breath shown in a KRGV-TV news report to the students. Hernandez has been in the hospital for six months and is still being treated after smoking for just two months.

“We don’t want south Texas to be considered an epidemic of vaping… you need to take the initiative so we don’t get there,” Chief Perez said to Vela students.

Edinburg CISD Director of Health Services, Diana M. Davila shared that at first, E-cigs and vape pens were a way to quit smoking targeted for adults. However, as the new “norm” in high schools, it has reversed its positive impact, now becoming a dangerous trend among young adults and teenagers.

“I’ve always heard vaping was safer than smoking and just thought and said ‘alright’ but I didn’t know what was in them,” Davila said. “ The nicotine amounts you’re getting in there are extreme and if you start this, you are giving yourself a huge push to being addicted to nicotine.”

With the new trend occurring, students are often coming into the nurse's office with anxiety issues. Increased heart rate or shortness of breath are some of the new symptoms school nurses are seeing which they may not know how to treat, unlike a simple fever or stomach ache.

The dangers of vaping can lead to (EVALI), an E-cigarette or Vaping Associated Lung Injury. Chief Perez said those who are actively inhaling the products or even thinking about trying it, are taking a risk with their lives.

“If you’re buying these products, you don’t know what you’re getting. Some of these products don’t have an ingredient label on them,” he said.

The CDC has found that vitamin E acetate is the chemical of concern found in most vape pens and E-cigs as the leading cause of respiratory failure.

The nicotine, THC and oil flavors found in these products are being inhaled without knowing what the product holds. As a result of this, those toxic chemicals are making their way into the smallest holes of your lungs.

“Personally, I’ve never been and I know a lot of my classmates have never been presented with the knowledge and facts of everything that’s been in those vape machines,” said senior Jayda Hernandez. “It’s crazy that in high school, this is normal now and it’s very sad.”

Edinburg CISD’s police department will target all middle schools and high schools with this campaign to prevent unhealthy addictions and illegal use of vape pens or E-cigs found in possession.

As of November of this year, over 30 cases of vape pens have been confiscated by ECISD’s police department.

For more information visit the following link on CDC.GOV: “Outbreak of Lung Injury Associated with the Use of E-Cigarette, or Vaping, Products”