By Jacob Kersh
If you walked into a high school bathroom, what is the first thing you would expect to smell? For adults, the answer does need to be explicitly stated. However, the scent that comes to mind for teenagers throughout the country is none other than vape juice.
Over the past few years, teen vaping has become nothing short of a raging epidemic. According to the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA), there has been a 900% increase in vape use by high school students from 2013 to 2017—that’s one in every ten students. In middle schools, the number of students vaping across the country is now estimated to be a whopping 500,000. And these numbers have continued to grow in 2018.
Soon, the FDA plans to require strict limits on the sale of most flavored e-cigarettes in an effort to curb their use among adolescents. For example, no major retail outlets will be allowed to carry them unless they restrict minors from entering the store or create an off-limits area.
Additionally, the company Juul—which controls approximately 74% of the e-cigarette market—has recently pulled their flavored cartridges from convenience stores across the nation. They have also launched a new youth prevention campaign which includes two-factor age verification for every purchase made on their website.
The fact that both the FDA and private companies like Juul are finally taking action to curtail the teen vaping crisis is a step in the right direction—especially because vaping and nicotine can be extremely harmful to the developing adolescent brain. But another important aspect of getting to the bottom of this pressing issue is figuring out why it has become so pressing in the first place.
Various scientists and analysts have time and time again deemed peer pressure as the primary cause of teen vaping. However, I decided to ask the students of Glenelg about their perceptions regarding this issue instead. I also prompted them to tell me why they think peer pressure has had such a huge impact on a student’s decision to vape in a high school environment.
I first spoke to Sophomore Nathaniel Sawitzki. Although he is still an underclassmen, he told me that he’s seen many of his friends vaping both outside and inside of school. “In Glenelg, it mostly takes place in the stalls of the bathrooms, especially during transition periods,” Sawitzki said.
With regards to peer pressure, he told me, “It only gets hard to say no when everyone around me is convinced that vaping is ok—that it can’t be bad for you since everyone does it. So I try not to surround myself with those types of people.” From the information Sawitzki has shared, it is evident that having friends who frequently vape can significantly influence one’s own decision to do so as well.
I then talked to Senior Ethan Chappell. Since he is an upperclassmen, he has had much more experience dealing with this topic within the halls of Glenelg. “ I try to use the bathroom in school only when it’s absolutely necessary, mostly because of how strong the smell is in there,” Chappell stated.
He also told me that students have been less and less discreet about vaping as the years have gone by. When asked to elaborate, he said, “Just yesterday, I saw a girl in my grade holding her laptop that literally had her Juul charging right out of the side. How are the underclassmen supposed to understand how harmful vapes can be if kids are walking around with them out in the open like it doesn’t even matter?” Clearly, the fact that vaping has become so mainstream for high schoolers has influenced younger students to try it themselves without first considering negative health effects.
Although the FDA and Juul have finally cracked down on the teen vaping epidemic by imposing actual nationwide restrictions, Glenelg students have made it obvious that there is still much work to be done. Even if students cannot legally purchase most flavored e-cigarettes, that won’t stop them from being influenced by their friends and social stigmas to use devices that people already have.
Hopefully though, these efforts will show the country just how apparent vaping has become within the youth of today. If adolescents are made aware of the dangers behind e-cigarettes before they begin to use them, the future might just be a little brighter.
You can read more about the FDA’s recent ban on e-cigarettes here.