Southsider Voice intern
As a senior sat in a Southside high school study hall, she noticed a puff of smoke. When she looked up, she saw that it was a student sneakily smoking a Juul in the back of the class. The teacher never noticed. This was one incident, but many students on the Southside believe vaping is a problem. According to a recent high school poll, one among four students said they vape; 81 percent think it is a problem.
One student said she doesn’t think teenagers don’t tell parents because vaping is illegal, but it is popular. According to the 2017 National Tobacco Survey published by the Federal Drug Administration (FDA) and Center for Disease Control, more than two million middle and high school students are e-cigarette users.
Since 2014, e-cigarettes are the most commonly used tobacco product among that demographic. The FDA has labeled the use of e-cigarettes among teens as an epidemic and launched a crackdown on the sale of vape products by retail or online to teens. Juul Labs has a drive to prevent sales of their product to those persons under 21, and they took some popular flavors for teens off the market. They also reduced the nicotine in e-cigs.
Their effort is working. One Southside senior student used e-cigs but believes the FDA reasons for a crackdown. He also noticed a change in the way the product is sold. Teens also must show ID when buying vape products. He has seen some students have panic attacks when they are cut off from e-cigs. Contrary to popular belief, there is no scientifically proven positive effect of vaping versus smoking cigarettes.
However, Franciscan Health interventional pulmonologist Dr. Faisal Khan cites new studies highlighting the potential harm of ecigs and that usage increases a teen’s vulnerability to using marijuana. Khan believes that vape companies such as Juul are targeting teens through product designs similar to the appearance of a flash drive; marketing, amount of nicotine, and other harmful health effects.
“Bottomline is that our bodies are designed such that anything inhaled other than clean air can be harmful to our lungs and our health in general,” Khan wrote in an email for this article. Southside high school administrators forbid vaping by students during school hours.
At Southport High School, student access to certain areas has been limited, making it more difficult for students to find a place to vape inside the school. If students are caught vaping, Southport High School assistant principal A.J. Martzall points out they could be disciplined but wants them to know there are resources if they need help to break the habit.
As one student pointed out, under-age teens can easily obtain ecigs by giving a student 18 years old or older money to purchase the product. The vaping epidemic, as FDA authorities point out, has arrived. (Note: Tabatha Fitzgerald is a reporter for The Journal Rewired, Southport High School.)