The Effects of Vaping at FHN
Published: February 28, 2018
Vaping and juuling has become a trend among teens across the nation. Many students who vape are underage and start because of their friends. Some students choose to vape on school premises, which is grounds for punishment. FHN administrators have enforced rules, giving out detentions and ISAP, to prevent vaping in school.
Juuls in School
In order to keep up with juuling’s popularity among teens, FHN plans to combat the issue by raising awareness about it
At the end of his sixth hour Environmental Studies class in early December, a student approached biology teacher Joe Brocksmith to report a classmate who had juuled in class. Prior to this, Brocksmith had heard of the e-cigarette trend from a KSDK story over Thanksgiving weekend. The story gave meaning to a term he had overheard in students’ conversations: juuling.
Small and inconspicuous, Juuls look like a flash drive to the untrained eye. Students can be found secretly juuling in classrooms and bathrooms and a bit more openly on social media. Brocksmith finds this ridiculous, but he still sees it as important to make sure kids know that adults in the building are aware of Juuls. For the past few months, Brocksmith has taken to telling students to “stay off that Juul” as a way of adhering to both beliefs.
“If you’re not thinking about it, it’s very easy to [not notice kids juuling in class] since they’re so subtle and discreet,” Brocksmith said. “It’s very easy to miss. It only takes a kid a few seconds to do it, so if you’re not staring at your students for 100 percent of class, it’s pretty easy for a kid to sneak one. I would imagine almost every single teacher here has probably had some kid do it in their classroom with how popular it’s been.”
Smoking e-cigarettes in school was not unheard of before this year, but according to Assistant Principal Jeff Blankenship, juuling has made the issue more prevalent than in the past. Compared to some other schools in the area, FHN was slow to pick up juuling en masse, until around halfway through second quarter, when FHN administrators saw an increase in the frequency of students juuling at school.
“We need to raise awareness,” Blankenship said. “We need to make sure [students] know that we know [about Juuls]. I think that certain students think they’re getting away with something, but they aren’t. We hear about a lot of things. [Personally], way more than doing any sort of discipline on them, which unfortunately does happen when we hear about those cases, I am much more in the boat of ‘It’s bad for you.’ I think we’re so early in this vaping thing that we don’t know that yet, but at some point we’re going to get there.”
At one point, FHN disciplined three to four students for juuling each day. ISAP was full, largely due to juuling. It has gotten to such an extent that on Dec. 15, the issue was addressed to students. Associate Principal Katie Greer delivered an announcement informing students of what will happen if they are caught juuling – consequences including getting their Juuls thrown away. Assemblies that took place Jan. 8 and 9 reiterated to students that teachers and administrators are aware of juuling and that students are not to juul in school.
“This school is not unique, in that we’re not the only ones this is happening to,” School Resource Officer Travis Scherder said. “This is more than our district. This is high schools across America. There’s news stories on ‘Dateline’ about it. I mean, like I said, we’re not unique. [Juuling] is one of those trends that’ll come and go, and it will be something else next.”
FHN Staff Works To Reduce Vaping and Bring It To An All-Time Low
For the first time this year, ISAP was full for a total of three weeks in December. The majority of the ISAP classroom contained students who got caught vaping in hallways, classrooms and bathrooms. The small, USB-shaped Juul hidden in students’ pockets has caused many disruptions throughout FHN.
“I feel like students use them because of the accessibility,” Assistant Principal Chris Birch said. “It’s easy to get an e-cig from a societal standpoint, but, by no means, should a student use one illegally or in school. It causes more problems than benefits.”
There are various punishments for when students are found vaping at school. The first time students are caught vaping, they receive three days of ISAP. The second time they’re caught, students receive five days of ISAP. If students are caught with e-cigarettes on them, they get two detentions and the second time they get a Saturday detention. While they are punished, the Juul, electronic cigarette or pod gets confiscated and thrown away.
“I think there was a need for [the principals] to stand up and say we have some expectations,” Assistant Principal Jeff Blankenship said. “I think the message that I want to get across to students is if you guys want to be proud of the school building that you’re in, the high school that you’re in and graduating from, it is just as [important] for you to follow expectations as much as it is for [the staff] to.”
All it takes for an investigation into a student to begin is for someone to report that student. If suspicious behavior is reported, one of the principals will find the student and then begin a search. One of the biggest miscommunications between the staff and the students is for the ability of the staff to search students. According to Birch, most students don’t know that the staff can search students and their bags, lockers and cars. They gain that right federally from a form called “In Loco Parentis.” To sum it up, the administrators will step in the place of a parent while at school.
“I want to reiterate this message, that I know that many of our students are frustrated,” Birch said. “I would just encourage our students to do the right thing. We can and we will search students. Students who bring these to school are taking a huge risk because all it takes is somebody saying ‘I saw this or I think I saw this’ and that is enough for us to go and search.”
The FHN administration plans to improve on this issue by communicating more with parents and students. They will do this by sending out emails and having meetings to talk about the health problems and to teach parents and students about what different types of e-cigs look like. The staff plans to start bringing more awareness of the health problems and legal issues of electronic cigarettes in health classes. They haven’t worked that out yet, but it’s a possibility for the next school year.
“The level of vaping in the school has definitely lowered,” School Resource Officer Travis Scherder said. “That number should still be set to going down with the ideas that have been circulating between the principals and the staff.”
Credit to Alex Rowe
Vaping Under Pressure
Teens tend to start vaping with a friend and don't think of long-term consequences
Larry Lund, a current St. Charles resident, lights a Camel cigarette at 20 years old. It’s 1987. He snuck some of his dad’s cigarettes as a teen, so the feel of the filter against his lips is familiar. He sticks the end in his mouth and inhales. He then grabs a beer, the lingering taste of the cigarette making the drink tolerable. He is surrounded by his friends at the Heidelberg, a bar, and now restaurant, on the University of Missouri campus. Even with the knowledge of the connection between lung cancer and smoking, they let the lighters flash and the smoke float out of their mouths.
Everyone else is doing it, so why not?
Thirty years later, vaping is the new smoking. People are more conscientious of the effects of smoking now, but there is little long-term research about the effects of vaping. Although, out of the students surveyed at FHN, 37 percent of the students who vape think there are health risks.
“I think a lot of times when teenagers are in the moment if it doesn’t have an immediate effect, then they feel more likely to escape the future problems,” Sheri Anderson, drug and alcohol prevention counselor, said. “They aren’t as concerned about it or believe it wouldn’t be that big of a deal if it does happen in the future. That’s the same with any drug. That’s the same with alcohol, cigarettes. All that. You know that there’s a risk to it, but you still choose to do it.”
According to students at FHN, they were introduced to vaping through a friend. Social and peer pressures are some of the biggest influences for substance abuse. A study done by the National Institute on Drug Abuse discovered that more students participated in risky behaviors if they were around friends. In the study, teens weren’t encouraged by their friends to take part in these behaviors. Just like smoking, vaping usually starts with someone else.
“I started smoking with my friends,” Lund, who had recently quit smoking, said. “I wasn’t thinking about my own mortality at the time.”
Vape sites say that vaping is the best alternative to smoking, the main purpose being to get people to quit using traditional cigarettes. But now, teenagers have started using e-cigarettes without having been addicted to nicotine prior.
“I think a lot of the reason smoking is considered gross is because second-hand smoke smells gross and it makes you sick, but vapor smells sweet, so it seems to be better and not as dangerous when it really could be,” senior Madeline Fields said.
Even with the little research out there, the short-term effects are evident, according to NBC news, but e-cigarettes are still advertised to be considered healthier.
“It’s marketed as feeling very safe and that there are all these flavors and that you can do tricks with it,” Anderson said. “So, for a young person, it can look fun. They’ve been told that it’s not harmful, so they don’t see the problem with it. You’ve got your friends doing it and other people posting it on social media. It’s just very encouraging to someone to try and do something like that, especially because it seems to do very little harm. It needs to be talked about and needs to be made aware that this isn’t safe at all.”
The Health Behind the Vapor
With the increasing popularity of electronic cigarettes among teenagers across the country, more emphasis is being put on further research on long-term health effects
Electronic cigarettes were introduced in the U.S. in 2006 for the purpose of helping regular cigarette smokers quit. In many cases, people used e-cigarettes for that intended reason. However, many teenagers began to use e-cigarettes and vapes instead of traditional cigarettes altogether. In 2014, the overall use of e-cigarettes was higher than the overall use of any other tobacco product in teenagers, according to the CDC. Because of this, the FDA banned the sale of e-cigarettes to minors in August 2016.
“It seems like there’s a sort of attractiveness to [vaping],” FHN nurse Connie Robertson said. “You see people vaping everywhere, and I guess kids see it and think it’s cool and OK.”
The Brain on Nicotine
Nicotine can get to the brain seconds after a puff of smoke or vapor. Nicotine especially affects an area of the brain known as the prefrontal cortex, where decision-making occurs, according to a 2012 study published by the National Center for Biotechnology Information. The prefrontal cortex does not fully develop until about age 25. Nicotine targets cells in the brain, causing them to release dopamine, which makes the user feel good. After repeated use, the cells lose the ability to produce dopamine on their own. The brain creates more receptors to handle the influx of nicotine. Since there are more receptors and the brain’s cells can’t produce dopamine on their own, the user will need more nicotine to achieve the same high. This leads to addiction.
“It’s a common misconception that they don’t contain nicotine,” primary care physician Jessica Underhill said. “Even without nicotine, they’re still dangerous. We’re finding out now that some of the chemicals affect the lungs.”
Nicotine addiction itself looks different from person to person. A general symptom is craving nicotine. Some people will go out of their way to get nicotine. After not having it for a certain period of time, some can feel irritable or sad. Research suggests that nicotine may bring on instances of depression and anxiety, as Science News for Students reports. This can be a problem with teens, especially in high school, because minors can’t purchase products containing tobacco, and they are unable to smoke in schools.
Juuls were released in 2015. The official ingredients in each pod are glycerol, propylene glycol, natural oils, extracts and flavors, nicotine and benzoic acid, with some variation per pod. Glycerol and propylene glycol are both FDA-approved and safe to inhale. Benzoic acid occurs naturally in the tobacco plant, but the International Programme on Chemical Safety reports that it may degrade the central nervous system. In each pod, there is 0.7 mL of nicotine, which is equivalent to a pack of cigarettes. Some pods don’t contain nicotine, but they still have all of the other chemicals listed.
All E-cigarettes and Vapor Pens
Electronic cigarettes are still somewhat new, so further research is still being conducted. A chemical that is found in some vape juice, called diacetyl, causes a disease known as popcorn lung, or bronchiolitis obliterans, according to the American Lung Association. Popcorn lung is when the tiny air sacs in the lungs are scarred, which causes the airways to thicken and narrow. The disease causes coughing, wheezing and shortness of breath. Another effect that vapor pens can have on the user is a decline in the effectiveness of the immune system, as discovered by a 2016 study conducted by University of North Carolina researchers. In fact, the researchers found that e-cigarettes suppress the immune response more than traditional cigarettes do. Vaping causes inflammation in the lungs, which makes the user more susceptible to bacteria and viruses.
“I’m a primary care physician, and I see people from basically birth to death and lately I’ve been seeing a shift from traditional cigarettes to vapes,” Underhill said. “Honestly, it’s concerning that kids are starting it so young.”