The Fairbanks school district reports it has seen nearly double the amount of infractions related to prohibited substances in a year, attributing the increase to vaping among students. 

Vaping and e-cigarette use among teenagers nationwide has risen to the extent that U.S. Surgeon General Jerome Adams declared it an epidemic a year ago. A nationwide outbreak of vaping-related lung injuries that has now reached Alaska after the state had no confirmed reports for several months.

In the Fairbanks North Star Borough School District, data indicates a spike in alcohol and other prohibited substance infractions.

The increase reverses what school district data had shown to be a “steady decline” through the 2014-2018 school years in the category “Alcohol and Other Unauthorized Substance Violations,” district spokeswoman Yumi McCulloch wrote in response to a Daily News-Miner inquiry.

“Unfortunately, we experienced a significant increase in discipline consequences for students related to the use or possession of alcohol or other substances in the 2018-2019 school year,” she wrote. “In 2017-2018 we had 185 infractions. One year later, we had 346 infractions in this same category. District and school administrators attribute this directly to the increase in vape use and possession with underage youth.”

More information about discipline trends in the district is available on the school district’s website at bit.ly/2OU4UiD.

Using or possessing a vape device or related paraphernalia results in disciplinary consequences falling under “Tobacco and Nicotine Violations,” according to McCulloch, while using or possessing a vape device with THC results in consequences under the “Alcohol or Other Unauthorized Substances” policy. In both cases this includes suspensions from school, community service and possibly a drug/alcohol assessment.

“The district is committed to ongoing education for our counselors, teachers, administrators, students and parents regarding vaping and other unhealthy behaviors. Information is shared with staff, teachers, parents and students regularly through emails, school newsletters, social media, health classes and PTA meetings,” McCulloch wrote.

McCulloch noted that Superintendent Karen Gaborik is advocating with Interior legislators to raise the smoking and vaping age.

West Valley High School recently used Facebook to post a link to an American Lung Association page tackling how to talk with kids about vaping. The school also has a page under the “Parent Teacher Student Association” tab containing an American Lung Association slideshow on e-cigarettes, vapes and Juul.

Ben Eielson High School hosted a talk on Monday with Lt. Col. Matthew Ramage, chief of aerospace medicine at Eielson Air Force Base, and the Fairbanks Chapter of American Lung Association will provide information on vaping. Parents and students were invited to come to the school’s theater for a discussion about the dangers of vaping.

The Alaska Department of Health and Social Services announced on Tuesday that Alaska has seen its first case of EVALI, an acronym standing for e-cigarette, or vaping, product use associated lung injury, since a nationwide outbreak began earlier this fall.

As of Wednesday, 2,291 cases of hospitalized EVALI have been reported to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention from 50 states, Puerto Rico, the Virgin Islands and Washington, D.C. There have been 48 confirmed deaths in 25 states and Washington, D.C.

Contact staff writer Kyrie Long at 459-7510. Follow her on Twitter at twitter.com/FDNMlocal.