One of the newest trends for teenagers is vaping—a form of inhaling vapors through an electronic device called a vape pen. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, use of e-cigarettes by middle and high school students tripled from 2013 to 2014.
The pens heat up, and with the press of a button, release a vapor that contains nicotine, propylene glycol, solvents and flavorings. Vaping doesn’t involve tobacco or the over 400 chemicals that analog cigarettes contain, leading to a perception among teens that it is a healthier alternative to smoking. While the “juice” for these pens usually contains nicotine, which can produce a slight buzz, some types just contain water and flavoring. These pens can also be used to inhale other drugs, such as marijuana.
Of the 4,450 students that responded to the 2015 Pride Survey, administered to students in grades 7-12 in Fauquier County, 50 percent perceive vaping to have moderate to great risk of harm. However, many teenagers believe vaping is a much safer alternative to smoking cigarettes. Of the 270 high school students who responded to a survey on Twitter, 42 percent said that they vape while 33 percent said that they don’t vape, but do not object to people doing it. Twenty-five percent said that they don’t vape and are opposed to it.
“I don’t vape myself, but I do believe that vaping is a better social action than smoking a cigarette. While smoking cigarettes can lead to various types of cancer and lung failure, vaping doesn’t do these things,” senior Richard Opper said. “I think people should definitely vape instead of smoke cigarettes.”
Recently, teenagers have started vaping for the fun of producing thick clouds of vapor that can be used to do smoke tricks. Teens are also attracted to vaping because of the assortment of pens and flavorings to choose from. These pens and flavored juices are easy to purchase on-line.
“I like vaping; it’s smooth and produces a lot of smoke which is fun to play with,” junior Justus Gilmore said.
Many teenagers who vape say it gives off a cool image. Though you must be at least 18 to purchase a vape, teenagers have found them easy to acquire on the internet.
“I vape regularly. I actually think vaping is one of the coolest things on the entire planet because it’s very entertaining and helps me make friends,” said sophomore Ryan Berlin, whose name has been changed. “I don’t think vaping is that harmful, especially compared to cigarettes.”
Most vape pens contain nicotine, and school rules treat vape pens as a Tier 1 offense of the tobacco policy. If a student is found with a vape pen on school grounds, the pen will be confiscated and the student will receive a punishment anywhere from multiple days of detention to suspension.
“I have seen an increase in the possession of vaping devices and their use at school, especially from last school year to this school year. I believe the increase is a result of the products being more accessible,” assistant principal Kraig Kellican said. “I would estimate the number of vape violations that I have processed this term to be around four to five, and probably a total of eight to 10 for the school year thus far.”
Many teens perceive vaping to be much healthier than smoking cigarettes because it eliminates the toxins that are released when tobacco is burned. However, people can still become hooked because most vape juice contains nicotine, which has addictive qualities. Nicotine can cause inflammation of lung tissue, which can weaken the tissue’s ability to block out foreign substances, leading to infection, according to The Student Science Resource Society. Studies on the long term effects of vaping on humans are not available because it is such a new trend.
“I have vaped before. I personally don’t think vaping is that ‘cool’, but it can be fun to mess around with sometimes,” senior Elizabeth McCarty said. “I definitely see more teenagers vaping than adults nowadays, but I don’t think it matters how old you are to blow some dank clouds. Obviously anything you put into your lungs, other than air, will have some effect, but I don’t think vaping is that dangerous or harmful. I think it is a good thing that people are putting down cigarettes and picking up vapes because it seems to be a far safer option.”
~emily armstrong, staff reporter