As the rule “no vaping” is now heard on the tail end of the standard “no smoking,” speech, it’s clear that people feel that this is something worth being addressed. Due to the “epidemic” of vapes and Juuls now in the hands of minors, what was used to help smokers quit is now being used to fit in with fellow classmates.
“You’re still getting all the chemicals in your lungs,” school nurse Mrs.Tammy Gladkowski said. “You can still get the blackened and damaged lungs, the COPD, the emphysema and lung cancer. You still get all the long term effects as if you were smoking.”
Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease, or COPD, is a lung disease that causes restricted air flow and results in difficulty breathing. It also puts those afflicted at a greater risk of heart disease and lung cancer.
“I don’t think there’s enough research; it’s probably just as bad [as smoking a cigarette],” Mrs. Gladkowski said. “I think even some of the research is saying there’s even more chemicals, [it’s] possibly worse.”
While nicotine is a concern in vaping, it’s not the only chemical to be worried about. Cancer causing ingredients found in antifreezes are found in vapes along with diacetyl, a flavoring agent that causes popcorn lung when inhaled.
“Just getting the education out there, posters, texts, emails and getting the public aware, like a wellness program [is the best way to address the issue],” Gladkowski said.
Vaping and e-cigarettes can not only affect overall health quality, but school performance as well.
“Nicotine can affect concentration, it can cause irritability if you get addicted to it, mood swings and that type of thing which would ultimately affect a student’s work ethic,” she said.
The problem with vaping is widely a teen issue due to the discreet design and fun flavors. Teachers around the country have seen it taking place in school and districts are using new technology to stop it. Plainedge High School in Long Island, NY has installed vape detectors in bathrooms.
“I think there’s definitely a wider use of vaping, and not so much vaping in school because the smoke is so evident, but I think more so with Juuls it’s easier to keep that hidden,” Principal Mr. David Zilli said.
A 2016 report from the US Surgeon General stated a 900 percent increase in usage of e-cigarettes in teens from 2011 to 2015.
“We’re hoping to continue to gather knowledge and information to share with students about the real facts of it,” Mr. Zilli said.
This aim to inform students of the dangers of vaping could be due to campaigns like Truth, an anti-smoking program. According to the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, only 6 percent of high school seniors smoked cigarettes daily in 2016 as opposed to 1995 where that number was 25 percent. Though these campaigns have seen a significant decline in teenage smoking rates, it seems like a classic “be-careful-what-you-wish-for” situation as teens turn to vapes.
“If there’s harms and dangers out there that are evidenced based, it’s our responsibility to inform students,” Zilli said. “Yes we want to educate students academically, but we also want to educate them socially, emotionally and physically as well.”
Though peer pressure or rebellion are possible reasons as to why a student would start smoking or vaping, their environment outside of school could be a factor as well. According to the Center for Disease Control, 2011 to 2013 data showed that food service and accomodation employees are the most prevalent smokers. This could be a part time job for many students.
“I worked at a restaurant for five years and everybody that I worked with all smoked,” Health teacher Ms. Alyssa Palenchar said. “They were all taking smoking breaks so I would say that has some sort of influence on the person.”
Ms. Palenchar believes that by making these things so convenient to use, they aren’t helping smokers quit.
“I think that it’s just an excuse for people to keep going,” Palenchar said. “It’s not really helping them stop, it’s just helping them get around the ways of doing [it] that cigarettes can’t [offer].”
With people continuing to think vaping is healthier than smoking, she sees the trend continuing as ways to get the nicotine advance. However, the information will grow as well and due to the success of anti-smoking campaigns, one is bound to see vapes being addressed.
“Doing these certain campaigns and having teachers and students go out there and promote non-smoking and activities you can do without smoking is a way to help,” Palenchar said.
Students are influenced by classmates and friends which is why peer pressure is a huge factor. This means that if vaping continues at school, the cycle won’t stop.
“More and more kids are going to get to the high school and they’re going to see that kids are vaping and they think that they need to vape to fit it so they’re going to do it,” senior Noah Roach said.
While he doesn’t feel pressure from companies via ads or commercials, he still sees it around him.
“I don’t know how they really can [address it] because kids aren’t going to listen,” Roach said.
Senior Mackenzie Soriano has noticed its prevalence among users and doesn’t see it stopping.
“They came out with the vape pen and then they came out with the juuls, like it’s not going to stop,” Soriano said. “They’re just going to start making new things so the industries can continue.”
With the appearance of vape shops around the area and even in the mall around teens and kids, it’s not a secret that it’s an increasing production.
“I feel like that’s unnecessary to have that in the mall,” she said. “They don’t even have doors, you just see people vaping in there. They want kids to see you vaping.”
She feels that it’s an issue worth addressing in school.
“I think they need to hold an assembly and tell kids why it’s not a good idea,” Soriano said. “Why do you want a nicotine addiction? You’re 17.”