Vapes containing nicotine and marijuana are not only being found more often among teens in school, but also in the hands of younger and younger kids.

Traditionally, vapes have contained a nicotine-type product and could be mistaken for USB ports. But a new THC cartridge is a derivative from marijuana and is typically very concentrated.

Scott Vanover, a school resource officer in the Buchanan County R-4 district, said a marijuana cartridge recently was found in a middle school he works in, and it’s a problem seen in every school.

“The kids are primarily anywhere from 13 to 17 or 18 years old that are using these products,” Vanover said. “We’ve noticed a high increase in students vaping in school. We came across an instance where we had a random search. We brought in one of our K-9s, which alerted to an item which turned out to be a vape pen that contained a THC cartridge or marijuana wax.”

Vanover said he’s seen continued growth in the popularity of such items, particularly in the last two years.

Legal access to vaping products is limited to adults, but officers suspect kids are acquiring them from older family and friends, stealing them from convenience stores and even ordering them online. The products continue to evolve, making it hard to keep up with what they look like.

“It’s really tough to catch students using these products while they’re at school. One, they’re able to hide these items so easy — they’re so small plus when they’re made to look like everyday items it makes it even more tough to identify, let alone figure out if it’s a real item or if it’s actually an electronic vape,” he said. “There’s everyday items such as markers, correction tape, USB drives, clothing that these products can be easily hid or put together to where they can use these items and not be readily noticed, whether it be at class or at home or wherever they’re at.”

Vanover said parents can find videos that show which products to be looking for by searching “How kids hide vapes” into a website like YouTube.

“If parents really suspect their kids of using vapes or having THC cartridges in their vapes, get involved with the kids, look in their rooms at everyday items. The internet is a great tool, YouTube, there’s great videos for references on where to look, what items to look for and how to spot them,” he said.

Morgan Riddell can be reached at morgan.riddell@newspressnow.com

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