The negative consequences of teens vaping is starting to show itself. Vaping is common amongst students in my high school. This has become a major issue in schools as many students are noticing that students are absent for long periods of class time. From my observations, bathrooms are the most common place you would find teens “Juuling” during class. Vaping in school bathrooms has become enough of an issue that earlier in December, Seycove Secondary School in North Vancouver went as far as closing down all of their bathrooms, except one universal bathroom near the office.
Vapes are portable electronic cigarette devices that were invented to create a safer alternative to cigarettes. Teens are getting a hold of these e-cigarettes which has adults worried. It is illegal to sell a vape to a minor, but many teens own one. According to Global News, “there are dozens available for sale in school hallways at any given time.” In just one year the use of vapes in American high schools went up 78%. Most recently, the vape company Juul has pulled their product from stores in the U.S. while the FDA mulls e-cigarette regulations such as possibly banning the fruit flavours that are so popular amongst teens. Other companies continue to sell all flavours in stores. Health Canada has announced plans to restricting advertisements of fruity flavours that appeal to young people.
Most teenagers I spoke to who vape, did not want to be interviewed for this article. However, those who did speak to me told me that they leave class to go on a vaping break either because their friends are doing it or simply because they want a break from class. They claim to only leave classes when the teachers finish their lessons. The teens I talked to also said that they started vaping because they were influenced by their friends.
Fifteen-year-old Erin (not her real name) is a student who does not vape. “I hate going to the bathroom during classes because I for sure know that students will be in there vaping.” Erin is annoyed at how she would walk into the bathrooms and have to deal with people vaping in front of her. When Erin goes to the bathroom she usually hears students hanging out in stalls together chatting and vaping. There is a significant difference between the amount of time that non-vapers and vapers leave class. Erin says that she only leaves class for about five to ten minutes at the most, whilst one student who vapes says she leaves class for at least fifteen to twenty minutes to vape.
Getting caught using or even having tobacco products like e-cigarettes at school has consequences, including a possible suspension. Some schools, like St. Joseph Murphy in Ottawa, have threatened to refer students to by-law officers who can fine them $305 for vaping on school property.
Schools like mine take a number of factors into consideration when deciding how to respond to vaping incidents. If a student is seen vaping on school property, it will be taken away and there will be a phone call home. Then it is up to the students parents to come and get it back from the school. “It all depends on the context of what is happening and or how it’s used,” said a teacher who deals with the safety of students at my school. He explained that there have been situations where students were sent home or even have gotten a suspension, but that’s only if the student has been caught multiple times. He thinks that by educating teens about the risks of getting caught with a vape at school and the laws against vaping on school grounds could potentially reduce the number of teenagers vaping in schools.
But the effectiveness of education-based responses compared to old-fashioned punishment is uncertain. While schools are finding ways to to decrease the amount of teens vaping, teens still continue to do it and are ignoring the potential health effects of getting addicted to nicotine. Compared to the dangers of vaping, students have much more fear of parents finding out about their addictions. “Students are begging me not to call home,” the principal at my school says. One teenager I talked to agrees with that assessment. “My dad would beat my a** if he found out that I have been vaping,” he said.
Cover Image: Flickr / Vaping360