O'Brien shows students ways vape companies market to a younger audience: fun and crazy flavored juices are just one of these methods.

Adrienne Gaylord

Dangers of vaping: speaker debunks the trend

September 9, 2019

Rounding the third week of school, Monday brought students back in the Huss Center for a presentation on vaping and e-cigarette use. During X-period on Sept. 9, the upper school gathered in the auditorium to listen to Pediatrician Janna Gewirtz O’Brien speak on JUUL and other e-cigarettes’ effects on adolescent health. 

Vaping has become increasingly common among high-school aged students within the last few years. Companies like JUUL use marketing strategies that target teens, O’Brien said, such as posting pictures of popular figures in the entertainment industry using vaping substances. Vape juice comes in a multitude of flavors that have appeal for a younger demographic. E-cigarette companies are trying to hook a new generation to replace their diminishing ranks of older consumers who smoke.

High schoolers are growing up in an environment where vape use is prominent. When O’Brien began her presentation, she asked the audience to raise a hand if they know a high-school aged person who smokes cigarettes. A small portion of the audience responded. Then, she asked the audience to raise their hands if they know someone who vapes or uses e-cigarettes. A sea of hands raised in unison. Vaping, O’Brien said, has become a part of the modern high school experience, and this presentation served the purpose of providing information, answering questions, and helping students make decisions about how to manage the presence of vaping.

With the recent hospitalizations and deaths of minors due to e-cigarette related illnesses, the topic is fresh in the minds of students and faculty alike.

O’Brien has served as an Associate Consultant for Community Pediatrics and Adolescent Medicine at the Mayo Clinic. She has been speaking at schools about vaping, most recently being SPA. With the recent hospitalizations and deaths of minors due to e-cigarette related illnesses, the topic is fresh in the minds of students and faculty alike. O’Brien spoke on the new hospital cases, which were all lung-related issues. At least 32 of these have been in Minnesota. She warned of the chemical compounds found within vapes, including but not limited to; benzene, acetone, formaldehyde, and lead. Vaping is not a safe or consequence free activity, and this presentation illustrated many of the factors weighing in on e-cigarette use for young people. Unlike smoking a cigarette, the nicotine in a typical e-cigarette can travel to the brain in only 10 seconds, and a typical JUULpod contains not just the amount of nicotine contained within one cigarette, or even two, but a full pack. Sometimes vape juice is marketed as “nicotine free,” although studies have found that in 99.6% of e-cigarettes still contain nicotine. Not only are JUULs harmful to the human body, but they are possibly easier to become addicted to than cigarettes; especially for the young, still growing, mind.

O’Brien provided a few resources that might be useful for those who would like to quit vaping or know someone who would like to quit, including www.becomeanex.com or text DITCHJUUL to 887-09. After O’Brien wrapped up the Q&A, Upper School Counselors Susanna Short and Emily Barbee came onto the stage to tell the audience: if you are struggling with vaping or e-cigarettes, please talk to them. They will not make it become a disciplinary issue unless it already has been, and they want to help.

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