HEBER SPRINGS, Ark — Students at Heber Springs High School will have to face tougher consequences for using e-cigarettes on campus.
Heber Springs High School Principal Mark Griffin said schools everywhere are trying to put a cap on e-cigarettes.
"Vaping is a nationwide epidemic that's unlike anything we've ever seen in public schools,” Griffin said.
“Our previous policy stated that the first offense for being caught with vaping paraphernalia would be a warning ticket. We decided to change that to a regular ticket to ramp up those consequences,” Griffin said.
That means they’ll get a written citation with a court date attached and have to stand before a juvenile judge.
“We don’t normally do mid-year policy changes, but we felt like this one was important for student safety and welfare that we needed to go ahead and make the change,” Griffin said.
Senior Gentry Hamilton agrees.
“I would say, our high school has about 450 kids I think. I think out of that 450, about 300 have done it before,” Hamilton said.
Hamilton said the seriousness of a court date will make students put down the vapes.
“I feel like it will make a really big change in the school. I know it’s really been a problem here and I feel like students will really think twice about vaping,” Hamilton said.
Signs are posted right outside the bathroom doors to remind students about ‘the real cost’ of vaping.
“They’re huddled up in the corner and sharing the vape, like it was when I was a kid in high school and everyone had cigarettes in the bathroom,” Algebra teacher Ricky Kyzer said.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention said nicotine can damage adolescents' brains.
Kyzer wants to do what he can to protect them from that.
“The initial consequence, I think, maybe can help them avoid some long term consequences,” Kyzer said.
The school will continue to look into other ways to deter students from vaping.
Heber Springs Middle School also adopted the new policy.