Leaders in St. Louis County are considering another round of regulations that target popular vaping materials like e-cigarettes.
"We've got an entire generation of kids addicted to nicotine and I don't think it's something we've acknowledged until now," said Erin Kelley, the executive director of Step Up St. Louis.
The non-profit community-based prevention coalition is pushing a proposed ordinance (Bill No. 270) that would make it harder for kids to get a hold of e-cigs, particularly at school.
If approved, it would become illegal for anyone under the age of 18 to possess or use tobacco products and electronic smoking devices inside or within 300 feet of any private or public school building in St. Louis County.
Kelley said the idea is not to punish kids or criminalize their behavior. Rather, she said the goal is to educate them about the risks e-cigarettes pose to their health.
According to the CDC, e-cigarettes contain the addictive drug nicotine, but can also transmit marijuana and other drugs. And while they are considered to be a safer alternative to cigarettes, they are not considered to be healthy or safe to use for young adults.
"We've got kids doing something that we're not stopping as a society. We've got to stop this," Kelley said.
Under the proposed bill, first offenders would get a warning, but any time after that they would have to attend an eight hour educational class with their parents on a Saturday.
Kelley said, "I can't imagine when I was in middle or school school being excited about spending a Saturday with my parent."
As a mom herself, the attraction of young kids to e-cigarettes and vaping first came to Kelley's attention in her own home with a group of her son's friends.
"They said Juuling and vaping is the big thing. I was like where are kids even getting this? How is this even possible?" she recalled.
Turns out, it's entirely possible and not all that difficult for kids to get their hands on these materials.
Kelley said, "The majority of kids say they're getting them from someone who stole it from a parent, stole it from an older sibling."
Then there's the transactions that happen out on the street.
In November, the I-Team first reported on Norey Amos, 18, of St. Louis. He's a popular social media personality who's commonly referred to as "The Black Frat."
Amos has admitted in the past to making thousands of dollars by selling e-cigs and vaping materials to teenagers through social media apps like Snapchat.
When reached for this story, Amos said he doesn't engage in or condone this kind of behavior.
Still, just visit an area school and you're bound to hear, or maybe even see, just how popular vaping is among area students.
"I can't use the bathroom here without noticing anyone vaping in it," said Thomas Kelley, a senior at Lindbergh High School. "In my algebra class there is a kid who is late every single day because he's in the bathroom vaping."
At his school, it's happening every day.
"High school is large. It's got restrooms where privacy is possible and kids take advantage," said principal Dr. Eric Cochran.
Not to mention, some e-cigarettes are small and easy to conceal. Others are designed to look like USB devices.
Cochran said, "They are user friendly when it comes to keep these things from being detected."
He said in the Lindbergh district, vaping first popped up on their radar more than a year ago as a serious problem that touches even middle school students.
"Many kids are coming to the high school having already experienced these devices. We know there are kids out there getting them from folks selling them," he said.
Now, Cochran said he doesn't know a district or school in St. Louis that hasn't had a similar problem.
"I think everyone I talk to is seeing similar patterns of behavior in their buildings. Everyone's trying to stay ahead of it," he said.
But it's a tough battle to win given the availability of e-cigarettes and vaping materials and the high demand for them.
That's why Cochran and Lindbergh Schools are supporting Kelley's measure.
"You don't know what you're putting in your body. It's something you may regret down the road once people figure out the impact on your health these things might have," Cochran said.
He thinks putting tougher restrictions on e-cigs might make kids think twice about picking one up in the first place.
But he and Kelley know school is just one part of the solution.
They both believe educating and working with parents will be critical to ending what they call a public health epidemic.
Kelley said, "It's new language, new tools schools can use and new communication we can put out in the community."
St. Louis County previously passed a new law that said only people ages 21 and above can legally buy tobacco.
In Missouri, the age to buy is 18.
Kelley said her bill is an added deterrent that focuses solely on schools. The legislation is moving through the council with public hearings expected in the new year.