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North Texas school districts waging education campaigns against e-cigs and vaping

"We want to educate the whole child and that includes their health and well-being and this is a topic that we really need our students to take notice."

COPPELL, Texas — As the Centers for Disease Control announced Friday that it is investigating up to 193 cases in 23 states of severe lung illnesses potentially associated with e-cigarettes and vaping, school districts in north Texas like Coppell ISD are openly confronting the issue.

"We're seeing this trend across every campus at every school district. So this is not just Coppell or related to Coppell. It's all over the place," said CISD Safety and Security Coordinator Rachael Freeman.

Last year, CISD confiscated approximately 100 e-cigarettes and vaping devices from high school to middle school and even one at an elementary school. And of the 100, roughly a dozen contained THC the psychoactive ingredient in marijuana.

"Something that we want to be proactive with. We know how much of an epidemic it is in society today," said Jennifer Villines, Coppell ISD Director of Student and Staff Services.

RELATED: CDC addresses recent surge of lung illnesses potentially related to vaping

It's an epidemic Coppell is fighting with as much education as they can muster. 

In a letter to parents and guardians this week, CISD encourages them to educate themselves about the risks of vaping and smoking and to openly discuss the issue with their students. 

They also recommend watching a 9-minute video of school safety and security staff talking in detail about the problem. The school district also provides a video by the CISD School Health Advisory Council discussing the myths of alcohol, drugs, and vaping. 

Their education effort even includes a link to WFAA's recent profile of 17-year old Tryston Zohfeld who, only after his failing lungs nearly killed him, admitted he'd been vaping since the 8th grade.

Credit: WFAA

"They feel like it's ok for them to do it and unfortunately the misconception is that it is safe. Or that it's a safer alternative to tobacco. But it's not," added Freeman.

"We want to educate the whole child and that includes their health and well-being and this is a topic that we really need our students to take notice to," said Villines.

Coppell ISD says it made great strides in years past convincing students that tobacco is dangerous. Now, this is the newest fight - one that school districts hope parents and guardians will help them wage too.

"Student safety and well-being is a top priority for our district. Working together, we are committed to informing you and sharing the most current information on important topics and trends, so we can better protect each and every student. As we begin a new school year, we continue to face some ongoing issues we have been struggling with as a school district community," wrote CISD Superintendent Brad Hunt. "We cannot tackle these issues alone, and we must address these together as one Coppell ISD community."

The letter to parents also reminds CISD families that a new state law goes into effect on September 1, 2019, raising the legal age for vaping or smoking in Texas to 21. 

RELATED: Here are new laws going into effect Sept. 1 in Texas

That means "not only can vaping/smoking incur a discipline action at school, it is now illegal for any student born after August 31, 2001, to purchase or use these products," the superintendent wrote. 

Possession of any amount of THC oil is a felony in Texas and carries with it a mandatory expulsion from school and an automatic placement in Juvenile Justice Alternative Education Program (JJAEP) in Dallas County.

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