Winston Churchill High School in Potomac. Credit: File photo

As county health officials are focusing fresh attention on rising electronic cigarette use by students, a third student at a Potomac high school was hospitalized Tuesday after using a vaping device.

In March, two Winston Churchill High School students were taken by ambulance to a local hospital after being caught under the influence of THC, the main active ingredient of cannabis and an illegal drug, and on Tuesday, a Churchill student was hospitalized after “ingesting THC through a vaping device,” according to Principal Brandice Heckert.

At the end of the school day, the student approached school officials, admitting to being “under the influence” of THC, according to a letter sent by Heckert to parents.

Last week, the 2,100-student school held a community meeting to discuss the dangers of vaping with students and parents.

The latest case was reported on the same day the county health department announced a work group has been created to look into ways to fight abuse and provide information about the dangers of vaping, the act of inhaling a vapor usually containing nicotine produced by an electronic device.

Some devices can be used to vape THC oil, which can cause a high similar to that experienced by smoking marijuana, according to health officials.


“Any amount of (students being hospitalized) is concerning and that’s part of the issue as well – it’s not just kids vaping tobacco,” Mary Anderson, spokeswoman for the county’s Department of Health and Human Services, said Wednesday. “It’s even more cause for concern.”

Anderson said countywide discussions about youth vaping are based on figures in the recently-released 2018 National Youth Tobacco Survey, administered by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, that shows e-cigarette use by high school students increased by 78 percent in the past year.

Representatives for the school system, county police, county Department of Liquor Control and the county executive have begun meeting to develop a “strategic plan” to decrease youth e-cigarette use, including enhanced surveillance, enhanced and expanded education and increasing the minimum age for purchasing e-cigarette devices. Anderson said the specifics of the initiatives have not yet been ironed out, but the group will continue to meet to finalize plans.


Caitlynn Peetz can be reached at