The newest fad: Local students caught with nicotine vaporizers

Nov. 16, 2013
A blueberry-flavored Atmos Optimus X vaporizer confiscated from a student at Southern Door High School.
A blueberry-flavored Atmos Optimus X vaporizer confiscated from a student at Southern Door High School. / Samantha Hernandez/Door County Advocate
Southern Door County High School principal Steve Bousley shows an Atmos Optimus X vaporizer that was recently taken from a student . / Samantha Hernandez/Door County Advocate
An Atmos Optimus X and an unlabeled vaporizer are two of the three confiscated at Sturgeon Bay High School. A third, which looked similar to a laser pointer, was given to Sturgeon Bay police, said Sturgeon Bay Superintendent Joe Stutting. / Samantha Hernandez/Door County Advocate


As part of its November newsletter, Sturgeon Bay High School informed district parents that it has seen an increase in students using electronic nicotine vaporizers at school.

The vaporizers differ from e-cigarettes in that the devices can use several solutions in their nicotine cartridges, including oils. The electronic devices go by a number of brand names, including Trippy Stix and Atmos Optimus X.

Sturgeon Bay Superintendent Joe Stutting said the district is using “trippy sticks” as a generic term for any electronic smoking devices.

According to a product description at, “The Optimus X kit specifically designed for all oils, E-liquids and Atmos herbal formulas.” Near the end of the statement is a line that reads, “(T)his is the ultimate vaporizer to have.” Many vaporizers come apart and can be recharged using a USB attachment.

From talking with students, Stutting found out that kids are paying about $20 for the device and about $5 for a refill cartridge. Students have been purchasing the devices both locally and online.

The cartridges, which contain nicotine, also come in various flavors.

“You don’t create a blueberry-flavored nicotine to market to adults,” he said.

The high school wanted to get the word out about the vaporizers because parents might not know their children are using them, Stutting said

“We need parents to start educating themselves and help educate our students that this is not a safe alternative (to smoking) and it is not acceptable at school,” he said.

The vaporizers, which may or may not have cartridges, generally contain nicotine but can be adapted for use with marijuana or hashish.

“The problem is we don’t know what is in these things,” Stutting said.

The devices are banned at Sturgeon Bay. The district’s Student/Parent Handbook covers not only tobacco and tobacco products, but look-alike tobacco products and electronic cigarettes.

Each of the three violation guidelines include confiscation of the item and notification of parents. First violation gets a student a half-day in-school suspension violation, a second violation is a one day in-school suspension violation and a third violation is a one day out-of-school suspension.

“We’re enforcing the rules if they get caught,” Stutting said.

Sturgeon Bay has confiscated three vaporizers to date.

Electronic cigarette use appears to be on the rise nationwide.

The Center for Disease Control released its Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report on Thursday that reviewed the 2012 National Youth Tobacco Survey (NYTS) findings dealing with middle and high school students use of tobacco products. The study found that the “prevalence” of tobacco products “among middle and high school students was 6.7 (percent) and 23.3 (percent), respectively.” Between 2011 and 2012, the report notes, “electronic cigarette use increased significantly among middle school (0.6 (percent) to 1.1 (percent)) and high school (1.5 (percent) to 2.8 (percent)) students.” The study also saw a rise in hookah use among high school students.

A copy of the CDC’s weekly report can be found at

Law enforcement

Local law enforcement officers are still getting a handle on the electronic devices.

“We’ve had two cases,” Sturgeon Bay Police Department Lt. Clint Henry said. “Both times it was actual tobacco, it wasn’t marijuana.” The two cases involved students.

“So far the only ones who have actually been in violation of anything are kids under 18,” Henry said.

The Door County Sheriff’s Department has also begun to see the devices.

“I’ve been seeing them in a couple of schools,” said Mark Hilsabeck, a Door County Sheriff’s Department investigator.

Hilsabeck calls the devices “electronic cigarettes.”

“Some places, they do make a liquid THC that people have been using to smoke,” he said. To his knowledge no one has been caught with a THC cartridge in Door County.

Hilsabeck doesn’t have much experience with the devices.

“They’re just starting to pop up now,” he said.

Southern Door

Southern Door County High School principal Steve Bousley recently confiscated an Atmos from a student.

“We did have one incident where a student did have one in his possession, and we addressed the situation and feel that it is resolved,” Bousley said.

All tobaccos products, including lookalike products, are banned at Southern Door.

He called the devices the latest “fad.”

“A number of fads that have hit our schools in the last three years, and this is the next one in line,” Bousley said of the vaporizers.

The example Bousley gave of a past fad was students taking Coricidin – a cold medicine for people with high blood pressure – to get high. One student was sent to the hospital after taking the over-the-counter drug.

Over the years Bousley has compiled a copier paper box full of items confiscated from students including cigarettes, throwing knives, a bag of oregano, a drug scale, rolling papers, pipe screens, lighters and multiple boxes of Coricidin.

“We think we’re ahead of the game; we’re really not,” Bousley said.

Stutting said the use of “trippy sticks” going “viral” caught Sturgeon Bay’s administrators off guard.

Contact Samantha Hernandez at or (920) 743-3321, Ext. 112.

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