ST. PETERSBURG, Fla. — There are more students opting to vape marijuana than nicotine. One out of five high school students across the country say they've vaped pot in the past year, according to the National Institute on Drug Abuse.

Doctors find the growing trend worrisome. So do Bay area school administrators and law enforcement officers. That's why Polk County Sheriff Grady Judd and Polk County Schools Superintendent Jacqueline Byrd teamed up for a new PSA.

Like Polk, if students are caught with marijuana in other school districts, the cases are turned over to law enforcement. Also, most Bay area school districts don't track the number of students who are caught with vape pens versus traditional cigarettes -- only a few do.

10Investigates looked into the numbers. Here are some of the key takeaways:

More than 550 Pinellas County students were referred to the tobacco clinic during the 2018-2019 school year. Ninety-six percent were there because they were caught vaping.  Instructor Iris Merryweather also attributes the sharp rise in the number of students attending tobacco clinics to vaping. She says there has been a 738 percent increase since just 2016-2017. Pinellas County Schools’ tobacco clinics are operated in partnership with John Hopkins All Children’s Hospital. Merryweather is also the chair of the Tobacco-Free Coalition of Pinellas.

Manatee County Schools had about the same number of vaping cases as Pinellas last school year -- with 475. Hernando County has been tracking the trends over the last three years. While there were nearly 300 students who were caught vaping tobacco, another 60 were found vaping marijuana.

Hernando County Schools Vaping Cases Comparison Chart
Hernando County Schools

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