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Students And Administrators Navigate Vaping Trends

By Molly Stefl

Since 2015, JUULs – electronic cigarettes that look almost like a flash drive – have become popular among both teens and adults. Although JUULs tend to keep consumers away from cigarettes, the use of JUULs is creating nicotine addictions among many high school students. 

Vaping products are so popular among teenagers, high schools have an issue with students using these devices on school property. According to the assistant principal at Elizabeth Forward High School, Anthony Popowitz, there have been 12 or 13 suspensions due to vaping on school property during the 2018-2019 school year. If this trend continues, he said, there will be about 52 vape related suspensions by the end of the year.

To discourage students from vaping on school property, Elizabeth Forward’s administration jumps created a three-day suspension. Popowitz says that this is because punishments stronger than a verbal reprimand will discourage students from vaping in the first place.

However, a one senior at Elizabeth Forward believes getting away with JUULing in school is easy. He says he hits his JUUL at least 30 times a day, and 10 of those times are on school property. 

Due to the popularity JUULs have gained since its release, teenagers say they feel the need to smoke one simply to impress their peers. Because of this, many students wind up addicted.

A junior at Elizabeth Forward High School says, “I think like 60 percent of the kids at this school are addicted to their JUULs. Just because that’s how many are addicted doesn’t mean that’s how many do it. I think at least 80 percent of kids at EF have hit the JUUL at least once.” 

Her philosophy on JUUL use seems to be correct, considering that Elizabeth Forward’s assistant principal agrees with her. In his opinion, there are two types of students who JUUL: those who are addicted and “social JUULers.” He believes that one-third of students at Elizabeth Forward are addicted to nicotine because of JUULs and other vaping products. 

JUULs contain many harmful chemicals and metals that can seriously harm the body, but many teenagers simply don’t know what is in the products or are misinformed. For example, when asked what he thought he was smoking, a recent Elizabeth Forward graduate said, “Flavor, some water, and obviously nicotine … that’s it, I think.”  

Though it could be too late to stifle the nicotine addictions that have already taken root in some teens, teaching those that are not addicted could prevent future addictions from occurring. Elizabeth Forward administrators are working with the Federal Drug Administration and the Allegheny Intermediate Unit to receive and distribute information that details the negative effects nicotine and other chemicals have on the body. The school’s district office is looking to partner with more organizations to spread the message about the downside of JUULing, Popowitz says.

As an Elizabeth Forward senior said while mentioning the negative effects JUULIng has had on her life, “I read a poster saying ‘Hitting the JUUL is not Cuul.’ I wish I would have listened.”

Editor’s Note: This story was published through a collaboration with high school students for the Point Park News Service.

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