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Vaping, JUULing popular problem among underage teens

By Jaden Adams, Point Park News Service

Imagine being a student part of the most recent generation in high school or middle school. New trends and “what all the cool kids are doing” is different from the past. Today, it’s vaping and JUUling that’s considered to be the latest epidemic among teens.

Vaping devices and JUULs (a smaller, more discrete brand) are e-cigarettes which contain nicotine. Research from Johns Hopkins University has found vaping to be just as addictive as traditional cigarettes, according to Johns Hopkins Medicine.

At freshman orientation hosted by Elizabeth Forward High School, Assistant Principal Anthony Popowitz showed a box of confiscated vaping devices. Here, incoming students and their parents were introduced to the strict no vaping policy enforced by the school. The first infraction includes three days of out of school suspension and a 45-school-day privilege suspension. This means students are not allowed to participate in activities sponsored by the school, including clubs, sporting events and dances.

Walking down the halls, students find posters meant to deter students from vaping or JUULing. A poster hung in each bathroom reads, “Some of the grossest things in this bathroom are in that vape. Vaping will expose your lungs to toxins that can cause irreparable damage.”

The most popular location to vape in school, according to Popowitz, is the bathroom. Another popular location is the stairwell, due to the lack of supervision. Any location that is not monitored by staff, students see as vape-friendly. Popowitz plans on changing surveillance tactics throughout the school by adding over 60 cameras throughout the building, and advising teachers to frequently check the bathrooms.

The epidemic is quickly affecting the youth of Elizabeth Forward High School. One student, who wanted to remain anonymous, says using a JUUL is better than smoking a cigarette because, “there is not actually fire lit, and tar isn’t actually going into my lungs.”

Students are not aware of what they are putting into their bodies and do not understand the serious health consequences cited by health experts. A single JUUL pod contains about 60 milligrams of nicotine, whereas other e-cigarettes contain anywhere from 6 to 30 milligrams per milliliter, according to a report from Vox.  When asked what ingredients they knew of in a JUUL or vape, multiple students said chemicals, and one said water vapor.

Students interviewed claimed to have started vaping and JUULing before they turned 18, which is illegal. Each student bought the device from someone 18 or older. Each student also said he or she has experienced the first stages of addiction, describing the feeling of being dependent on their device and “feeling lost” when they go long periods without nicotine.

Elizabeth Forward School District plans to educate students at the elementary level about the consequences of vaping and JUULING. The school district is currently working with the Pennsylvania Association of Student Assistance Professionals, and the Allegheny County Health Department. The administration received posters and educational videos to show to students. Popowitz says he must first decide “whether the kids will make fun of it” before displaying, or posting, the material.

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