Sioux Falls School District holds town hall meeting to discuss vaping

SIOUX FALLS, S.D. (KSFY) - There have been more than 800 recorded vaping-related illnesses, so far, across the country with 14 deaths attributed to it. There are currently six cases right now in South Dakota.

To educate students about the dangers of using these tobacco products, the Sioux Falls School District held a town hall meeting.

The panel was made up of an Avera pulmonologist, Dr. Anthony Hericks, Washington High School Principal, Dan Conrad, and Washington High School counselor Travis Sieber.

Last year 81 students in Washington High School were caught with tobacco-related products, which is drastically higher from 2016 with only 25.

"We hear kids saying that they have an elevated anxiety," Conrad said. "And so, this helps them stay calm. Or maybe it's their ability to focus in class. They're using this to use as their focus mechanism."

According to Dr. Hericks, 20% of kids 18-22 believe that vaping is harmless. But, he says the side effects are real. The chemicals inside the products can cause lipoid pneumonia or fatty pneumonia.

Dr. Hericks says what's concerning is they don't know what exactly is causing the illness. Doctors are still studying the exact cause whether it is a specific substance or the product itself.

He says there are several behaviors to look for if your child is vaping: coughing, mood swings, oral fixation, decreased appetite, and several other signs, as well.

Hearing these statistics caused one student from Memorial Middle School to come to the meeting to learn more about how to help those he cares about.

"I am scared for the kids at my school because some of my friends vape and Juul," Leo Honeycutt, a 7th grader at Memorial Middle School, said. "And I just want them to know how bad it is for them."

Becky Seeman is a mom to two boys in the Sioux Falls School District and wanted to learn how to better communicate the dangers with them.

"I wanted to bring both of them to this informational session to learn more about the side effects of vaping," she said. "All the information out there has kind of really scared me about the health of kids that do try vaping."

The Sioux Falls School District will be taking an educational approach in tackling the epidemic. They will hang posters in areas where vaping is common.