What’s up with vaping?

Solomon Yentis, Investigative Journalist

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“Make the Switch”. That’s a common saying now since doctors and scientists are revealing the truths about cigarettes and smoking and its effects on the human body. But now students are making the switch, but their not switching from anything, as in students and teens are just going straight to vaping. Children from 6th grade all the way up to 11th have taken up the hobby of disgusting and unhealthy vaping.

“Its kinda a way to relaxed. Just kinda let go and not worry. I like juuling alone, with my boys, I don’t know if I’m gonna stop, and I feel like people are just overreacting and it’s just not a big deal,” says one of the many 14 year olds who has taken part in the growing epidemic known as vaping.

Vaping and the use of e-cigarettes is a rather large problem among under age students, yet most people know very little about it. It’s dangerous. Most people understand that, but just because something may be labeled as such, doesn’t mean people care that it is.

That so called “head rush” that the user may experience when inhaling the vapor contains some pretty vile substances. One being diacetyl. Whether it be that savory, or sweet flavor you may be tasting while vaping, more often than not this is the chemical that is being used to create those artificial flavors. Doesn’t sound so bad until you learn this same chemical also causes popcorn lungs, which damages your lungs’ smallest airways.

This is why many smokers and vapers feel shortness of breath and cough a tremendous amount. The chemicals in vapor not only affect the internal body, but also the external. Studies have proven that vaping will stunt growth among growing children. Up to an inch. May not seem like much, but that’s only one of the thousand effects of vaping on the body.

Approximately 6.6 percent of 8th graders, 13.1 percent of 10th graders, and 16.6 percent of 12th graders vape according to CNN News. Most of which have no idea of what they are getting themselves into.

Unfortunately, but not surprisingly, the companies and stores that sell these devices such and “Juul,” “Blu,”  “Smok,” and “Myle” couldn’t care less about teen Health. A label on the back of a e-cig box saying “intended for adult smokers” doesn’t stop anyone from using it. This is quite like the labels on Legos, which give the intended age for use. Even the websites do nothing to prevent underage purchases aside from the “press here to confirm your over the age of 18” button.

I even tested it on Blu.com , and as long as I had a credit card or visa number I could order all of the products I wanted despite my age.

However, it’s not just the fact that it’s incredibly easy to order these items online. Companies like Jam Monster, Naked E-Liquid, and Beard Vape are starting to target the youth. They claim not to, but when flavors like, Fruity Pebbles, Mountain Dew Blast, and Cotton Candy Rush come out you start to realize these are among the favorites of young children. Do you think kids are more likely to buy a product that tastes like mint or their favorite breakfast cereal? Its appealing to children and companies know that. That’s why they create and sell it.

These companies also target children through their ads on tv, pop ups on Instagram, and many other apps and sites that children use.

How the majority of teens are exposed to and start vaping.

It’s not just the larger name brand companies though. Each individual delis and shops that sells these e-cigarettes are contributing to the problem.

“I know of two delis that sell to my friends, both a block a part,” says 14 year old Georgia, a student at Clinton high school in New York. Not only is this beyond wrong, but its criminal. It’s not even drug dealers, it’s your average deli selling children drugs.

Obviously, teens hold a responsibility to be smarter than to buy these addictive and harmful products. But what if teens don’t know that these products are addictive or harmful? Parents and adults can’t just assume students and teens are purposefully making wrong and dangerous decisions.

MMWR had done a study from 2017 to 2018, which showed 1 in 20 middle school students use e-cigarettes and 1 in every 5 high school students use or own e-cigarettes. If a high ]school contains about 5000 students, is it really safe to say the approximate 1000 kids using vape devices are aware and knowledgeable of the harm and risks of vaping. No. That’s where not only the school and faculty, but parents also come into this problem.

According to Kristin LaPlante , a math teacher at the NYC iSchool, there is talk amongst adults “about the growing trend” of vaping. LaPlante is also aware that “although vaping is not as bad as smoking, the nicotine effects are still there, the chemicals are there, and that’s scary.”

However, even though teachers claim it’s scary and “know more about the problem than most adults, considering we work a lot with young people,” says LaPlante.

Even with the knowledge that most students aren’t aware of the risks, the iSchooland many other schools have done nothing or very little about it. . Schools should not be able to suspend, expel, and inflict punishment on students whom are not aware of why vaping is so bad in schools, even though students may know they aren’t supposed to be doing it.

With that said, it’s not just that schools aren’t helping their students to stop. Most aren’t even trying to prevent the start of the act. As a response to if she believed she had a responsibility to help or prevent her students from vaping, Ms. LaPlante says, “Oh gosh, if I do I have been neglecting that responsibility. I think it’s something that in general as a school and a staff we could be doing more to try to warn students and to try to educate more about the risks.”

When the assistant principal of the NYC iSchool, Ms. Leimsider, was asked about vaping, she said, “ I know it’s extremely addictive and its been and is a problem in this and many other schools.” Leimsider has been working at the iSchool for 12 years and in all the twelve years she says the school has not held any large discussions revolving vaping and lessons informing students of the problem. She said, “the discussions on vaping occur more on an individual basis, usually when students get caught or in trouble for vaping.” Yes schools and administration are helping to solve this problem, but they could be doing more.

Teachers aren’t the only ones with a part in solving this problem. Parents also hold true to their responsibility. Many if not all parents of teens were around for the cigarette rush. All fun until the harmful research finally came out. Parents hold tremendous weight in keeping their children from vaping.

Jessica Bern is a parent of a 15 year old girl, and like many other teens, Jessica’s daughter got caught up in the use of e-cigarettes. She expresses worry in the “vaping may be safer for people who were smokers but its not necessarily safe.” Jessica had actually known about vaping and its consequences before she caught her daughter doing it, but “some of my friends who are parents don’t know about vaping until they catch their kids doing it. So I think more parents with kids in middle school and up know about the issue but most others don’t, because they haven’t really been exposed to it.”

There is a tremendous amount of “blame being put on students for vaping,” says a 16 year old anonymous student.

Jessica believes the best way to prevent her child from vaping is to “go through her room, her droors, closet, talk about it with her, I send her articles. However, a lot of my friends don’t like doing that. They kind of just let it go,” said Jessica. Parents need to play an active role in this situation and unfortunately  many aren’t doing so, and instead placing the blame on the kids.

Before punishment is enforced, it may be the most valuable to hear the teens’ perspectivesfirst. I asked 4 students who attend the NYC iSchool why the vape, or why they have vaped. Responses include “It tastes good,” “all my friends do it,” “My parents are chill about it,” and “It’s fun.” Only two of these 4 students knew about the risks by learning about it online. That right there is the problem. No one is educating. Kids are exposed and are tough all the nonsense they see on TV and online. How can schools, and parents inflict punishment upon their children or students, when the kids don’t even know what they’re doing wrong?

Many people under the age of 17 refer to it as “it’s better than smoking.” That doesn’t mean it’s not bad. In fact not only is it bad, but The Food and Drug Administration has not found any e-cigarette to be safe and effective in helping smokers quit.

With that said, it’s about time the children who have the largest role in this crisis to be heard. Why do children and students vape? According to Truth Initiative there are about three main reasons for the cause of vaping among kids. One being that a child’s family might have used or currently use vape or other forms of smoking products. This is the cause for approximately 39 percent of child vapers. Some students say they vape so they don’t end up smoking alike their parents. However, it has been proven that use of these vaping products as an adolescent will most likely lead to smoking as an adult.

The second largest reason for vaping among children is the amount of different flavors available. Candy, fruit, mint, chocolate. All are very appealing and easy to come by for under age users.

And the final largest factor is the belief that e-cigarettes are less harmful than traditional tobacco cigarettes. According to True Initiative, 17.1 percent of teens believe this to be true. It not only has been proven that the chemicals in these e-cigarettes are harmful and cause disease such as popcorn lungs and physical growth stunts, but vaping actually leads to smoking. A child or teen that vapes is four times more likely within the first 18 months to start smoking than someone who is not vaping.

Of course, there are other reasons why children say they vape, such as they are easier to get than other tobacco products, cost less than other tobacco products, and can be used in areas where other tobacco products, such as cigarettes, are not allowed. Also, the scent plays a huge role. Traditional cigs create a burning smell, while vapes, or e-cigarettes, leave a fruity or faint smell that can be easily fanned away in a place of restriction. Some students reported that they used e-cigarettes to try to quit using other tobacco products, or because famous people on TV or in movies use them. Companies and ads say vaping is less harmful than smoking. Less harmful does not mean safe.

Six students were asked a series of questions revolving around whether or not they vape and why. The most commonly answered, to the question of Why do you vape was either “it’s cool” or “my friends do it”. The lack of knowledge and the effects of vaping among children is one thing, but now there’s the issue of under age children getting their friends, who are also minors, to do it. The issue of peer pressure shows up in numerous problems among the youth. However, now it’s getting more serious. And illegal.

Three out of the five students who told me they vape confessed that their friends had started before them, and then the friends go them “hooked” (or addicted) as a student who prefers to be anonymous said. Students are one of the main causes of other students vaping. Not because they want their friends sick, because they don’t know any better. Unfortunately though, children are highly susceptible to addiction, and nicotine, which is in most vapes, is highly addictive. At this point it may not even be about being cool or showing off to friends. Children are getting addictions to these harmful substances.

Fisher, a fifteen year old student at LAB High School in New york City says, “my friends say that it like clears their heads, or relaxes them. Some of them literally can’t go a minute without a hit.” (A hit meaning inhaling of the vapor.) It’s not just about preventing teens from vaping, but it’s now about healing children addictions. It’s time everyone plays their part in solving this colossal and ongoing problem.

WAYS TO HELP:

No one knows enough about vaping. No one. So it is up to everyone who knows anything at all to spread the information. Schools, including principals, teachers, and other workers in an educational environment seem to know and understand the most about the problem. They work with teens all day. School faculty play a huge if not the largest role in this crisis. Schools educate, so it’s time they start educating about problems associated with vaping, and get teens to stop, and never start.

Whether it be holding large meetings and discussing, bringing in professionals to discuss or even sending out emails home and to the students of the particular school, there is so much more schools can do to help.

Alike parents. Parents who are aware of the growing problem need to do more research and spread what they learn among their friends and family, to stop the spread of false information onto their kids, and to have reason for their disciplinary actions.

And the largest role goes to the largest factor of the problem: students. Although many feel as though they do not have a large voice around adults, kids have the largest impact on their friends. Kids and students who know the effects with vaping need to spread the word among their friends. The more people know and share, the less teens will use, and the faster this problem will be solved.