Is Vaping the New Weed?

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A teenager uses a vaporizer pen. This image is a part of the public domain.

by Faith Moreno

Across the country, vaping — the term for smoking an electronic cigarette — is taking off among teenagers. According to a study by Truth Initiative, vaping has increased significantly among high school students since 2011 — 11.7 percent of students reported vaping in 2017, compared with 1.5 percent in 2011. 

The Chicago High School for the Arts (ChiArts) is not immune.

It isn’t a secret that several ChiArts students smoke the flavored nicotine common in e-cigarettes. They do it in the bathroom or in the corners of the staircase where the camera doesn’t go.

E-Cigarettes are on the rise — but not everyone is a fan.

Several teens report that they started vaping because it appeared to be a healthier way to smoke. There’s a wide variety of different e-cigarette models including vapor mods (which are larger than typical e-cigarettes), Juuls (a popular brand of e-cigarette), and vaporizer pens (a model shaped like a pen).  And there’s a huge selection of different flavors such as cherry, apple pie, and chocolate.

E-cigarettes, however, aren’t actually a safe alternative to their traditional counterparts. In fact, e-cigarettes may contain toxins not found in cigarettes — such as diethylene glycol, a component of antifreeze. It is no secret that they contain nicotine as well.

So why hasn’t the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) done anything about this? Just this month, they announced that e-cigarettes have “an uncertain future” due to the high use among adolescents. The FDA is threatening to pull them off shelves altogether. 

But for now, getting a hold of an e-cigarette is pretty easy. Many young teens get them from older siblings or family members. Some buy them at gas stations known to not check for identification.

Inside ChiArts, a small number of students vape however many seem them vaping is bothersome.

“Vaping is just for them to pass time because they’re bored, I don’t understand why they have to do it in school,” said Leorando Orozco a student at ChiArts. Many students reported feeling as if the kids who smoke are obnoxious.

“Every year there s a new craze about something, and this year it’s to pens. They (students) just want to use something to look cool” said Efram Blue, the head of security at ChiArts.

A ChiArts student, who asked to remain anonymous, said that smoking helped their anxiety.

“I have social anxiety so if my dab pen calms me down during the school day,” the student said.

It’s hard to accuse a student of smoking or possession of drugs if it’s not visible. When students are caught, they’re treated the same way as if they were caught with a cigarette.

The consequence for possession of an e-cigarette on campus is one to a couple of days suspension.

The moment those students step foot back into the school they continue to do it and the whole thing repeats again and again.

According to multiple outreach organizations, one way to prevent vaping is to have a talk with their children about the effects and consequences of consuming nicotine.

Vaping at an early age can slow down the development in your brain it can lead to cancer. Teens who vape today are more likely to smoke cigarettes in the future and to be prone to other addictive substances.

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