A Nebraska school district will begin to test students for nicotine, amid a “growing epidemic” of cigarettes and e-cigarettes in one of its schools. Fairbury Public School, which is a three-school district of 930 students, 50 miles southwest of Lincoln, approved the measure last week, adding cigarettes and e-cigarettes to a “banned substances” list. The random drug testing will be administered to the 387 students at Fairbury Junior-Senior High School, where vaping has “skyrocketed.”
According to superintendent Stephen Grizzle, smoking and vaping is reaching “epidemic proportions,” which is why the district hopes to deter kids from becoming addicted to nicotine. Since smoking and using any kind of vaping product is against their policies, Grizzle believes it would make sense to include the tests.
The new policy stated that any student who currently participate in any extracurricular activity, which is around 60 percent of the student body, must submit a urine sample to be tested for illegal and performance-enhancing drugs. The policy has been in effect for two years and will expand to include nicotine in the fall. Ten percent of students who participate in extracurricular activities are each given an ID number, which is then chosen randomly in a special lottery.
What happens if a student is caught smoking or has nicotine in their system? Well, a failed test can lead to a 10-day ban from all extracurricular activities such as marching band practice and sports teams. In Lancaster County, the young vaping rate increased to 27.4 percent this year alone, up from 23.8 percent in 2015. The nicotine testing program is said to cost around $900 annually and the school board is also considered installing Wi-Fi-equipped sensors in bathrooms to detect electronic cigarette vapor, such as the Juul.
It’s no secret that e-cigarettes among high school students nationwide have increased since last year, jumping from 1.5 percent in 2011 to 20.8 percent last year. From those, 0.6 percent jumped to 4.9 percent among middle schoolers during the same span. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, that’s equivalent for 1 in 5 high school students or more than 3.05 million!
Now, I do have to admit that I think testing students might be a bit overboard, especially since some e-cigarettes don’t even have nicotine, but I get where they are coming from. I just hope this doesn’t backfire on them and kids start doing something else than smoking a ciggy here and there. But yeah sure, forcing these kids to stop smoking and lower their tobacco use will definitely help them in the future. Plus, let’s not forget about that second-hand smoke.