The sheriff of a rural Georgia county says his office will charge minors in possession of vaping products with crimes usually applied to illegal drugs. And the school superintendent says school officials will refer students to the authorities and press charges against them.
“I think we’re at a point in time where we have to take a very hard stance on the things that we’re seeing when it comes to vaping,” said the sheriff. “If they’re caught vaping in school, if they’re passing their vape off to somebody else to vape at school — or even not just at school, but that’s where we’re seeing most of it — that they would be charged with a…crime.”
Pickens Schools Superintendent Dr. Carlton Wilson agreed, and explained that the schools would participate in criminally charging its students who were caught vaping or in possession of vaping devices.
The announcements were made during a talk to local parents at Pickens High School by Sheriff Donnie Craig and Appalachian Judicial Circuit District Attorney Alison Sosebee. The law enforcement officials showed parents an anti-vaping presentation Sosebee has been giving to local students. Pickens County is located about 50 miles north of Atlanta. The county has a population of about 30,000, more than two-thirds of which resides in the county seat Jasper.
It is a crime in Georgia for a minor to buy or possess vaping products. The offense is a misdemeanor, and can be punished by community service and/or forced attendance at an anti-tobacco lecture.
The sheriff and D.A. referred to the use of so-called “synthetic cannabis,” which D.A. Sosebee notes is “a higher schedule than methamphetamine.” She described multiple recent incidents of students in area schools requiring hospital visits after reactions to substances they vaped. Sosebee disturbingly confuses the vaping industry and its products with the sale of illegal drugs.
Sosebee in her presentation told the audience that while executing a search warrant on a smoke shop for the illegal products, one detective inhaled “a few of the particles” that were in a canister and immediately vomited and had to be helped out of the building. Sosebee said the drug was tested and is something called “panaka” (spelling unknown), which she said is “a Schedule 1 controlled substance,” and described it as a “synthetic cannabinoid.”
Sosebee said this was “the same substance that has been located in the vapes of a lot of the students in these schools that had these medical emergencies.” But she then seemed hopelessly confused about the types of vapes kids used and what they contained, as she veered wildly from “synthetic cannabinoids” to popcorn lung when describing the supposed hazards.
“You know,” said Sosebee, “one of the big concerns about the vaping industry as a whole is that it’s almost completely unregulated, without any governmental oversight. As such, we don’t know what’s in the vape juice, what’s in the pods.”
Sosebee showed the audience a photo she says was sent to her by a high school principal of “all of the vapes that were confiscated in one day.” The image includes a Suorin Drop, two Suorin Airs, several JUULs, along with multiple pods. She notes that a lot of them “look like flash drives.”
Never during the presentation do any of the speakers differentiate between vaping standard nicotine-based e-liquid and vaping illegal drugs. It’s all blended into one epic horror story that calls for immediate action by every adult.
The district attorney, whose judicial circuit covers three counties, implied that since “no one knows” what’s in vape products, JUUL and other popular nicotine-vaping devices could contain Schedule 1 narcotics. Sosebee illustrated her concerns by showing local TV news clips about vaping, and an episode of “Inside Edition” about synthetic cannabis.
Pickens Schools Superintendent Dr. Carlton Wilson told the crowd of parents that the schools had been treating vaping incorrectly, as a form of tobacco use. “Well, that stops today. I told all of our students today that as of today, we’re declaring a war on vaping.”
“If a student is caught vaping, or with any vaping device, we’re going to prosecute them to the extent that our student code of conduct allows us to,” said Wilson. “And if it’s [sic] under 18, it’s illegal for them to have, we’re going to ask the Sheriff’s Department to prosecute them criminally.
“And if a student allows another student to use a vape, or to borrow the device, we’re also going to charge them with contributing to the delinquency of a minor. We’re going to stop vaping,” said the superintendent dramatically. “And we’re going to do everything within our power to keep kids safe.”
Vapers might try to reassure themselves that this mindset is only to be found in sleepy little towns and remote counties like Pickens. But the recent FDA anti-vaping campaign The Real Cost isn’t much more than a $60 million version of the Pickens County sheriff’s presentation, complete with fanning fears of “irreversible lung damage” and “changing your brain.”
Anti-vaping hysteria like what we see in Pickens is the result of years of lies, half-truths, and innuendo about vaping being repeated and twisted and combined, like in a game of telephone, until the result is a whole county that can’t tell the difference between nicotine and Schedule 1 drugs, and doesn’t care to learn. It’s nothing less than Vapor Madness — and it’s spreading.
This ignorance is the fault of the deliberate inflaming of public fears about something that isn’t well understood by what should be trusted institutions like the FDA and CDC, and private organizations that have a vested interest in maintaining the “smoking problem.” When children are arrested and prosecuted for something as innocuous as using a nicotine vape, it is those “public health” authorities and special interest groups like the Campaign for Tobacco-Free Kids that should be blamed and held to account.