Insight into the vaping culture at American
His face is hidden in a white swirl. The dimness of the isolated bathroom and the whiteness of the smoke contrast jarringly with the cloyingly sweet strawberry scent. Vaping is common, yet even as the city endeavours to find a solution, it is as secretive as the smoke around it.
“I just like the way it feels, the head rush and all. I know I’m not addicted to it, so I’m like why not? I feel like after college, I won’t be doing drugs and all that because I will have other responsibilities,” a senior who uses the Juul, explained.
Moreover, students are impressed by the tricks and shapes you can make with the vape that are becoming viral with YouTube videos.
“People want to vape because you can see the clouds and it looks nice,” Anonymous (11) described.
Students use the juul, a miniature stick powered through a lithium-ion battery. It is particularly popular in groups.
“Honestly, it is just who you hang out with. If your friends have it, you’re gonna do it too,” Anonymous (12) continued.
Students claim that different social groups tend to vape as well; it is just not one particular demographic. There is no commonality among students who vape, other than that they have succumbed to peer pressure.
“The popular people too, also people who are academically smart, they just do [vaping] recreationally. Some smart people are friends with popular people too, and they are just grouped together, and sometimes they get influenced, too. I know a lot of different groups smoke weed, different grade levels. There are people who are doing it everyday,” Anonymous (11) described.
Despite knowing the health consequences, students often fail to consider what they learned in their past classes which they are required to take as underclassmen.
“I don’t think [Health class] really hits home in ninth grade for a lot of students on what these types of drugs can do in their bodies. Maybe a check-in between ninth and twelfth grades would be helpful,” Mr. Reibenschuh noted.
So far, there has been no change in the AHS policy for combating the rampant use of vaping. A study by the Tri-City Health Center reported that out of 82 convenience stores in Fremont, e-cigarettes are in 56 of them, with the Juul brand sold in 20. Campus supervisors routinely look in the bathrooms and sometimes catch students vaping in them. But many students also get away with it.
“Well, we haven’t necessarily changed our policy. What we have to do is be more aware. [The vape] is clear, so we can’t necessarily see that all the time,” Mr. Reibenschuh added.
It is difficult for teachers and other students to recognize whether or not a student is vaping, even in front of their own eyes.
“Juuls are so small and the clouds aren’t that big,” Anonymous (11) said.
Reflecting on their experiences with vaping, some students who vape opened up with stories of how they first got started.
Anonymous (11) shared, “I just wanted to try it, one of my older friends started doing it. One day, they were like ‘hey, do you wanna try this’ and I was like ‘sure, why not, cuz I know this is just gonna be a one or two time thing,’ and I am not going to get addicted . . . I’m not addicted right now.”
Students can control the doses of nicotine used in their e-cigarette by using vape mods, which include more advanced features than the juul.
Anonymous (11) continued, “It is a low dosage of nicotine too. The lowest you can get is 3 mg. If you are using a mod, you can add juices. The juices have different mg of nicotine in it. You can get it without [nicotine]. Since the mods are big, some are over hundred dollars. You can’t really bring them to school. I used that [mod].’”
There are many negative clichés surrounding students who vape at American.
“I feel like people who vape, they automatically get called stupid and stuff, just because we do drugs. He must be a bad kid, he has done hella drugs…That is not always true, sometimes we just wanna have fun,” an unnamed senior, the one who doesn’t want to do drugs after college, said.
In addition, students feel prejudiced and misjudged based on the plethora of stereotypes that adults impose on teens who vape.
“I know that there are people who know their limits; I know how I can control myself that I don’t get addicted. There are definitely people like that. But I know adults just don’t know that some teenagers can control themselves like that. They just generalize that ‘oh, all teenagers can’t control themselves. All of them are gonna get addicted, they are all gonna get lung cancer or whatever.’ It’s not like that, because not everyone is like that,” the junior student concluded.
Regardless of youthful optimism or adult caution, the secrecy that surrounds vaping at AHS may prevent the true extent of the problem from ever being known.
Photo Caption: Real Cost Anti-vaping slogans are in most AHS bathrooms