Within the past year, the principal and vice principals have seen a change not only in the number of students vaping while in school, but in the circumstances they do so. Unlike cigarettes, vaporizers emit small clouds of flavored scent that dissipate much more rapidly than cigarette smoke; therefore, catching students who are vaping is more difficult.
“Since it’s odorless or smells like candy or fruit, it’s a lot easier for kids to go into the bathroom,” Jackson said. “They’re also a lot smaller and easier to hide than something like a pack of cigarettes, which also have a very distinctive smell.”
“Education should be provided about vaping, not just scare tactics. It just makes people want to vape more and does nothing but worsen the drug problem.” -Anonymous Survey Respondent
Due to the size and discrete nature of many of the newer vapes like Juuls, students do not feel the need to hide them and often will use them in open spaces, such as the back of the classroom or in the bathroom.
“The most surprising thing I’ve noticed about students vaping is the brazen nature, in which they bring it to school or use it out in the open in the bathroom. There’s no attempt to hide any of it, and I don’t understand it, but I am shocked each time,” Tobey said.
Just a Fad?
Although the future of vaping remains uncertain, the trend may follow in the footsteps of cigarette smoking. Currently, there are no long term studies connecting health problems to heavy vape use, but researchers are working along lawmakers to study and regulate vaping. Soon, Massachusetts and national laws could catch up with stores, such as Justin’s, to raise the age of purchase or limit the types of products sold. Similarly, much like how rules prohibiting cigarette use evolved over the years, WHS’ code of conduct has had to adapt to vaping on school grounds.
These movements to restrict vape usage only characterize one half of the conflict as many students enjoy the social aspect of vaping with friends, the nicotine “buzz” and even the calming benefits for anxiety. A vape culture has developed at WHS, but much like the decrease of cigarette smoking over the past 20 years, vape may not be here to stay.