Too Juul For School

Electronic cigarettes boom in popularity among student body, health risks go unrecognized


Madison Goeser

Letting the vapor seep through her lips, a student vapes. “I think that vaping is a good social activity and can help bring people together. However, I think that if someone chooses to vape they should do their own research about the health effects and other consequences because there are some,” The student said.

As one of the most recent trends to gain popularity, the illegal use of e-cigarettes and “Juuls” has become common among the school’s underage population. The use of vape products—vaping for short—was introduced in 2003 by Chinese pharmacist Hon Lik. It was originally advertised as a way for people to quit smoking cigarettes, but has since grown into a popular recreational activity among students.

“People just think it’s cool,” an anonymous senior said. “It’s something everyone can do. You don’t have to have any special ability to do it, so it can bring different kinds of people together.”

Since most vape juices contain nicotine, laws have been put in place to keep minors from using the potentially addictive substance. The Food and Drug Administration prohibits anyone under the age of 18 from using any kind of vape product. Despite the current legislation, many minors are still able to obtain vaping devices. At Free State, underage use of vapes is quite typical. Out of 95 students surveyed, 50% of them said that the illegal use of vape products is very common. Students are able to get their hands on vape products with ease, as there are many effective methods of buying them unlawfully.

Madison Goeser
A student holds her vape battery outside school property. According to an NBC News article, in 2016 alone more than two million middle and high school students used e-cigarettes each month.

In the past, users could purchase vaping products on the internet without being asked for any identification. That rule has since been altered and all consumers are now required to provide an I.D., but underage users can easily buy fake I.D.’s to avoid this. If minors are slick enough, they can go into vape stores, act of age and not be questioned when buying a device, an anonymous senior said.

One of the reasons why vaping has become so popular is the “cloud” the user makes after exhaling the substance. The vapor is cooler than a traditional cigarette, and some students are fascinated with the many different things you can do with it, an anonymous senior said.

It’s almost like being drunk

— Isaiah Jacobs

“I think if you’re doing it with people that you feel comfortable with then it’s just a good time. People are fascinated by the cloud and the tricks.” an anonymous senior said.

Breathing out a stream of vapor, a student vapes. By vaping instead of smoking cigarettes, users save $1400 a year.

Another attractive characteristic of vaping is the buzz that the user gets after inhaling the substance. It can be described as a short-term head high.

“It’s almost like being drunk—you feel it in your head and you just kind of wobble,” senior Isaiah Jacobs said. “It’s a dizzy feeling. It feels nice.”

The buzz is caused by nicotine which the vape juice contains. To a new user, vaping is an easy way to get a strong high. After continual use, users build up an immunity and must ingest more nicotine to reach their desired state. This is called a nicotine addiction and all consumers, especially minors, are susceptible to this craving according to the U.S. National Library of Medicine. Some students have become habitual users, causing them to spend time and money feeding their habit. Students who vape recognize that many of their peers have an addiction but still choose to partake in the activity, disregarding the risk.

“Some [people who vape] will admit it,” senior Isaiah Jacobs said. “You can tell they are addicted when they spend all their money and time on it, just like people who smoke cigarettes or drink alcohol.”

I would definitely not encourage any youth to smoke at all

— Aman Khan

Once hooked, users inhale the many toxins that compose vape juice. Very little research has been conducted on the long-term effects that vaping has on a person’s body according to pulmonologist Aman Kahn.

Pressing the battery to her mouth, a student breathes in the vapor. According to the National Institute on Drug Abuse, teens are 31 percent more likely to start smoking cigarettes if they are an electronic cigarette user.

“I would definitely not encourage any youth to smoke at all,” Kahn said. “Whether in large or small concentrations, nicotine is harmful. The other liquids in vape juice, such as propylene glycol, are harmful as well. We simply don’t know what harm these liquids can cause when heated up, but there is obviously a possibility for carcinogenic effects.”

With so little information available, students are unable to make an informed decision about whether or not to partake in vaping. Until further research has been conducted, underage users will continue to consume vape products without understanding the impacts that these substances can have on their health.