Thermopolis Independent Record - Your source for news in Hot Springs County

By Cindy Glasson
Reporter Photographer 

Sweep for illegal substances nets none


January 24, 2019

Amber Geis

Above is the packaging for a JUUL E-cig, the item teens are using to vape in place of smoking. Available at local retailers and online, the JUUL fits in the palm of the hand making it portable as well as easily concealable from adults.

Students and staff were caught off guard last Friday morning when four K9 units were brought on the premises at Hot Springs County High School to do a sweep for illegal substances after some safety issues that arose the previous week with students vaping.

Dogs from the Big Horn County Sheriff's Office, Johnson County Sheriff's Office, Lander Police Department and Fremont County Sheriff's Office worked the building for about an hour and a half of the two-hour lockdown.

While there were a couple of positive "hits" in the building, officers were not able to locate anything to go along with the scents the dogs picked up.

Superintendent Dustin Hunt and high school principal Breez Daniels were pleased that no drugs turned up on campus, but are still highly concerned about student safety with regards to student use of electronic cigarettes.

"The District is very appreciative of Wyoming's law enforcement agencies and the use of the canines," Hunt stated, "and will continue to utilize the canine drug detection resources in the future."

The district is currently searching for an expert to come in for a community meeting to make parents and others in the public as well as students, more aware of what vaping can do to young bodies and minds. The issues of vaping are fairly new dangers and information teens are receiving online is not always accurate.

School nurse Brenna Huckfeldt has been working with the district as well as law enforcement on research into the issue from a medical standpoint.

Stop smoking aid

For literally decades there has been a push to eliminate smoking across the board, but especially when it comes to teens and young adults.

Electronic cigarettes, or E-cigs, hit the market around 2007 as a smokeless way to help people quit smoking.

E-cigs still deliver the addictive nicotine from cigarettes, minus the plethora of chemicals found in regular cigarettes. In addition, the nicotine can be found in a variety of flavors like peach, cotton candy and even cocktail flavors such as buttered rum and Pina Colada.

The flavors are quite attractive to teens.

While a lot of headway has been made over the years in stopping teen use of regular cigarettes, the current use of E-cigs among teens increased 900 percent between 2011 and 2015. In 2018, more than 3.6 million youth, including one in six high school students and one in 20 middle school students currently uses an E-cig.

Nicotine exposure during adolescence can harm the developing brain up until age 25, affecting learning, memory and attention. The aerosol used in E-cigs to deliver the nicotine can also potentially expose teens to heavy metals and ultrafine particles that can be inhaled deeply into the lungs.


The most common E-cig being used locally is a "JUUL". The JUUL cartridge, or pod, contains about as much nicotine as an entire pack of cigarettes.

Available at local outlets as well as online, these E-cigs can easily be mistaken for a USB flash drive as they fit easily into the palm of the hand. The E-cig is basically a large battery, which plugs into a computer's USB or phone charger, with a cartridge on the other end that contains the "juice" or e-liquid.

While the JUUL pods are sold as sealed units containing the e-liquid, videos are available online showing how to take the pods apart in order to refill them with other liquids including THC, Bath Salts, Hash Oil or Spice, all illegal substances.

The initial sealed pods containing nicotine have been known to leak, however, once they are taken apart and refilled, the leaking can become severe, leaving whatever liquid they contain in their wake.

This is where it becomes a health threat to others.

Simply coming into contact with liquid nicotine can cause poisoning within 15 minutes. Symptoms can include feeling queasy or throwing up, stomachache, mouth watering, faster heartbeat, higher blood pressure, pale skin, headache and dizzy or off-balanced or confused.

Late symptoms, which can happen anywhere from 30 minutes to four hours later include diarrhea, shallow breathing, slower heartbeat, lower blood pressure, lethargy, feeling weak, slow reflexes or unable to control muscles and seizures.

Parents should become informed about E-cigs and their dangers as well as what the devices actually look like. A simple Internet search can give you hundreds of different photos of the E-cig brands on the market today.

In addition, there are resources from the Surgeon General to help you talk with your teens about E-cigs at


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