Teens vape despite consequences

Iris Wright, Website Editor

  A student sits in class with a Juul vape in his hand. In plain sight, while the teacher’s back is turned, he inhales it, but only a few students notice him as he holds in the vapor.

  According to WebMD, cigarette smoking has declined in recent years, but vaping has far surpassed it in popularity among minors.

  Two students who have encountered student vaping shared their experiences but wish to remain anonymous.

  “Kids these days, everyone’s doing it,” one junior girl said. “It’s not some big secret.”

  Vaping is the inhaling of vapor from an e-cigarette or vaporizer. Other forms include vape pens, vaporizers and Juul vapes. Juul vapes have the size and appearance of a USB drive and are highly addictive.

  “I’ve seen people in class do it,” the junior said. “During class they’ll sit there with the Juul in their mouth, and, like, hide it, and then inhale it, and they don’t let it out.”

  Vape juices may contain flavored water, nicotine, or cannabis. Part of the concern surrounding vaping emerges from student safety, which includes avoiding exposing students to harmful chemicals. Most vapes contain around a third of the nicotine as cigarettes. According to Veppo Vape Shop, nicotine is highly addictive, but some vape products only contain flavored water.

  “I have [vaped], just not here [at school],” a senior girl said. “It’s literally water vapor. It’s flavored water, unless you get the nicotine juice.”

  These products sound harmless, but the content of vaporizers is often unknown by minors who use them.

  “I think the government regulation is not really there, in my understanding,” nurse Laurie Inda said. “You never really know what’s in vaping, I guess; what’s the content of it.”

  The chemicals used to flavor vape products can lead to lung diseases like bronchiolitis obliterans, commonly known as popcorn lung, which is caused by the chemical diacetyl used to flavor 75% of vaporizers, according to Rosencrance, a behavioral health organization. Inhaling diacetyl irritates the tiniest passageways, or alveoli, in the lungs causing swelling.

  “It sounds like emphysema,” Inda said. “Emphysema is a form of chronic lung disease. You see it with people who have been long-time smokers.”

  According to a study published Jan. 11 in Frontiers Media, even vapes that do not include diacetyl or nicotine may contain glycerin and flavorings that may be safe to eat but not to breathe. All vapes involve a heating process that may produce formaldehyde, but vaping is still socially acceptable to many students.

  “The same negative connotation that smoking has, hasn’t been attached to vaping yet,” Officer Jason Kopek said.

  Students even post themselves vaping on social media.

  “If I go on Snapchat a lot too, other people are posting from the bathroom at school,” the junior said.

  On her phone, she pulls up Snapchat and finds numerous stories of students vaping. One student posted a video of himself vaping in his garage. In another story, a student sits in his car exhaling white smoke.

  “This kid parks right next to me all the time and sits in his car vaping before school every day,” she said.

  To inform parents of the vaping phenomenon, the administration sent an email on Oct. 3, which informed parents of the increasing popularity of vaping and the consequences of vaping on school grounds.

   “We have seen a tremendous spike in vaping occurrences at school so far this year,” the administration said. “We would like to ask that parents talk with their students about vaping and it’s dangers.”

  Though some consider vaping to be a healthier alternative to smoking cigarettes, the consequences for a minor to purchase, possess or use either are the same.

  “As far as the ordinance in Plainfield is concerned, there is no difference [between vapes and cigarettes],” Kopek said. “All are prohibited to be purchased, used, or possessed by all persons under the age of 18.”

  Though websites that sell vape products, like Vapes.com, often ask users to hit a button before accessing the website confirming that they are over 18, anyone can order vapes and vape juices regardless of age. Many students vape off school property, but those who vape at school face additional consequences if they are caught. Students are most often caught vaping in the bathrooms.

  “On at least one occasion, students have come forward to complain about other students vaping in bathrooms, because they did not feel comfortable to use the bathroom for its intended purpose,” Kopek said.

  If a student is caught vaping on school property, they may be prohibited from performing in school sports, according to the student handbook. Possession of vape products can result in up to $750 in fines, according to the administration’s email.

  “There may be additional school consequences for possessing these items on school grounds, which is left up to the school administration,” Kopek said.

  Students who openly vape seem to disregard consequences, possibly because vaping has been normalized among minors.

  “Kids feel like it’s not that big of a deal,” the junior said. “It’s so common now.”