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'This problem is way, way bigger than we ever imagined' - 11 Investigates: Vaping in NW Ohio schools

Following the investigation, Gov. DeWine says educators need to do a better job tracking vaping data.

Brian Dugger

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Published: 12:00 PM EST November 18, 2019
Updated: 1:51 PM EST November 18, 2019

A joint investigation between WTOL, WBNS in Columbus, and WKYC in Cleveland reveals that vaping has exploded in Ohio’s public school districts.

Investigative teams from the three TEGNA sister stations partnered to request public records from Ohio’s 610 districts for the number of vaping-related events during the past three school years. In the 2016-2017 school year, there were 773 incidents reported to us. The numbers soared to 6,400 in the last school year.

In northwest Ohio, 11 Investigates submitted public records requests to 116 districts: 92 provided vaping data, 9 did not respond, 11 combined vaping and smoking incidents, and four other districts refused to provide any data.

Of those that gave vaping-only data, the numbers were jarring. Three years ago, there were only 172 incidents, but the number was 1,108 last year.

Ohio statute requires districts to submit smoking-related incidents. It does not, however, require vaping and tobacco to be separated. But following the release of data from our joint investigation, Gov. Mike DeWine said educators need to do a better job of tracking vaping data.

“Governor DeWine will work with State Superintendent Paolo DeMaria and the state board to encourage better data collection and youth vaping and hopes the board will change its policy to capture specific information about vaping disciplinary issues at Ohio schools,” said Eve Mueller, DeWine’s deputy director of communications. “In addition, he will ask ODE to consider surveying schools to gather facts about vaping incidents to provide a current snapshot of the data.”

The Ohio Department of Education said it agrees with the governor and that it is considering its own statewide survey of districts.

“I think you did a great job reporting this and coming up with this information,” Mandy Minick, the ODE’s press secretary, told WBNS’ Bennett Haeberle. “It’s helpful and it’s sparking a lot of discussion.”