MERCER — Mercer High School is taking a pro-active approach to end vaping.

Last month school board members voted to amend the current drug and alcohol policy to include punitive measures for using electronic cigarettes.

Students caught with an electronic cigarette will receive three days of out-of-school suspension for the first offense, completion of a tobacco-intervention program and possible charges filed with the district magistrate, according to the district’s website.

On the second offense, students will receive five days of out-of-school suspension, completion of a tobacco-cessation program and possible charges filed with the district magistrate.

Those caught a third time will receive five days of out-of-school suspension, have charges filed with the district magistrate and will have a formal hearing with the school board disciplinary committee.

In addition, the district will launch a vaping prevention, education and advocacy program to prevent teens at the school from using tobacco.

“Our hope is to have a two-pronged approach to this,” said Superintendent Ron Rowe. “We want to take a proactive approach in educating youth on prevention and cessation programs as well.”

In a letter on the school district’s website, administrators cited data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention stating “vaping has been linked to 1,479 cases of lung disease and 33 deaths nationwide.”

The website states as of 2018, one in five high school students had reported using e-cigarettes in the past month, according to the Office of the Surgeon General.

A Pennsylvania Youth Survey conducted at Mercer High School in 2017 revealed 24.3% of eighth-graders had used a vaping/e-cigarette device within one month of taking the survey, 26.8% of sophomores and 20.5% of seniors had used a vaping/e-cigarette device, according to the district’s website.

The vaping prevention, education and advocacy program will be taught to students in grades K-6, 7, 9 and 11. Next spring, the district will launch a youth role model/group called TRU, which stands for Tobacco Resistance Unit, the district’s website states.

Vaping “is more popular amongst youth than burnt tobacco smoking,” Rowe said. “For years, we didn’t know what the health effects were. We do now.”

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