Even with dangers and education, vaping amongst teens still prevalent

Vaping is everywhere. It’s in headlines; it’s on social media.

According to the CDC, In 2020, 19.6% or 3.02 million of high school students, and 4.7% or 550,000 of middle school students reported current e-cigarette use. The appealing flavors, sleek designs and accessibility lure kids in. It’s easy for any teen to walk into a store and buy a vape, or they could just ask a friend. In 2018, three quarters of teenagers who use the popular brand JUUL get the flavored pods from physical retail locations, and half get it from social circles. After they start, the high amounts of nicotine keep them coming back. Once hooked, teenagers constantly pump toxic chemicals into their lungs, potentially leading to major health issues later on in life.

What does the administration do about such a harmful practice?

The truth is, vaping has hardly been addressed at school since the pandemic began. Even though it seems to be such a large issue nationwide, it’s difficult to tell if it is an issue on campus or not.

C3 representative Laura Kimmel said, “People aren’t going around vaping in school and talking about if they vape or not, so it’s kind of hard to know.”

Though students don’t publicly talk about vaping around adults, it isn’t uncommon for them to bring up the topic amongst themselves.

I believe the most important thing we can do is educate and make sure everyone knows how dangerous vaping is.

— Laura Kimmel

These conversations are what shape the view surrounding e-cigs. They can be helpful by educating teens on the damaging effects of vaping, or could be harmful by pushing teens toward the use of vapes and nicotine. Nicotine is what makes vaping so harmful. It is a highly addictive drug that affects the development of teenage brains and also harms attention, learning, mood, and impulse control. Nicotine use in adolescence increases the chance of addiction to other drugs. It is important for the community to talk about nicotine in order to make mindful decisions surrounding vaping.

That said, administrators haven’t seen many signs of use on campus.

Upper School Dean of Students Stacy Tepp said, “I have heard from students that they have smelled it going into some of the gender neutral bathrooms. You know, the one stall, locked bathrooms. But, that’s all I’ve heard…We haven’t had a lot of situations with vaping.”

As a small private school, it is much easier to keep track of everyone, making it harder for anyone to vape on campus. But, outside of school, there is much less preventing students from falling victim to this toxic practice. How does the school promote a vape free culture, and what more can they do?

“I believe the most important thing we can do is educate and make sure everyone knows how dangerous vaping is. A big reason that I really want to stay away from it is because my grandpa had lung cancer, and I want to keep healthy lungs,” Kimmel said.

It is important to think about why students would vape and how to use those reasons to help them find alternatives.

“I believe one reason is self-medication,” Tepp said. “So, we need to think about how we help students manage stress, and having outlets for that that aren’t chemically associated. Another reason is just being a teenager. It’s your job to push boundaries. So, if it’s more about trying something new or taking a risk, there are other exciting opportunities you can take that aren’t as damaging to your health.”

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Though it is seemingly not a prevalent issue, there are still many policies and rules regarding vaping. As stated in the student handbook, possession of a vape on campus or at a school event is a major school violation. For a first violation, the student caught possessing or using a vape will be suspended for at least one day, followed by a re-entry meeting with the principal and dean of students.

Not only that, student athletes are also reported to the MSHSL, leading to suspension from meets. Worst of all, a student caught distributing vapes, alcohol, or any illegal chemicals, regardless of place and time, may be expelled.

Outside of school grounds, if a student is caught vaping , drinking, or using any other drug outside of school grounds, they will be required to complete a chemical assessment as a condition of the student’s attendance. They also could have a talk with a counselor, instead of direct disciplinary punishment.