Four years ago, DHS Principal Kit Moran was looking outside his office window when he noticed a couple of high school kids huddled nearby outside on the school property. Moran went to investigate the kids, not expecting anything.
Little did he know, this would be his first encounter with a vape. Moran caught the kids using a vaporizer that more closely resembled a “hookah” or “car battery” than that of a modern, USB-sized vape. Based on the size of this vape, Moran didn’t expect it to be a problem.
“They had a big bag and at that time they had a big vaporizer and it looked like a hookah, you know,” Moran said.
"We said, ‘Hey, what are you guys doing?’ They got all nervous. We said ‘Hey, what’s in your bag? What are you doing?’”
However, what he didn’t see coming was the technological innovation that would lead to vapes being the size of small pens just four years later.
“How stupid can you be?" added Moran in terms of what he and Assistant Principals Ken Koenig and Karen Walls said to themselves. "You just walked back into a building where this is illegal, you numbskull."
"That was four years ago and the thing was pretty big, so I think, Ok, this is a problem, but it’s big, like a car battery, but as soon as it becomes the size of a USB, ruh-roh, we’re in trouble.”
With all of these underage teens vaping you would think about how are they getting this stuff? We know they aren’t getting it from the Mobile Mart in Dexter, Michigan, as the owner of the gas station said he “Will call the cops on anybody that comes in without an ID.”
He says that there is a zero tolerance for anybody trying to buy without an ID in his gas station, as well as any of his employees selling it out. He also stated that during the beginning of a school year a lot of the middle schoolers heading into the high school come into the gas station and try to purchase underage
“I’ve called the police quite a few times on them," he said. "The Previous owner of the gas station was lenient and would sell to pretty much anyone, but they charged them an extra fee, which is illegal.”
The clerk stressed, “don’t come into my store and try to buy if your not the proper age!”
In talking with Deputy Visel, he laid out the punishment for vaping on school campus is as follows:
- First offense - "Three hours of community service at the school (i.e. assisting with cleaning up the cafeteria after lunches or to the school early or staying late to help the custodians."
- Second Offense - "Three day out of school suspension. The suspensions would continue to increase the more times the student gets caught, which ultimately could lead to an expulsion from school."
- "If it is determined that the vape juice contains THC, then that's an automatic 10 day out of school suspension," Visel said. "However it could be knocked down to just a three-day suspension if the student attends a community organized drug and alcohol class."
Teachers At DHS
Although many teachers are diverse in their knowledge of vaping, many do have their own personal opinions about it.
“It is the dumbest thing in the world,” History teacher Kevin Cislo said. “Here you inhale these chemicals and see what happens. I’m not sure why kids need it. I don’t know if it’s because they're addicted or if they’re just trying to look cool.”
Cislo admitted to catching plenty of students trying to “look cool” during his teaching career.
“When you walk in on eight dudes [in the bathroom] and then you ask them what they're doing, it gets really awkward,” he said.
Biology teacher Daniel Witte said he has caught several kids vaping over the years.
“They have all gone down to the office, and the procedure after that is all down to Mr. Koenig.”
Most teachers believe that informing parents and the general population about the harmful nature is important. Both science teacher Jessica Baese and Koenig stated that they believe that vaping will follow the same trend as smoking: As more people become informed of what they are and the adverse health effects associated with them, the popularity of vapes will decrease.
WHERE DOES THIS PROBLEM START?
Not only is vaping a problem on the high school level, but it is also starting to become a problem in the middle school. In multiple interviews with middle schoolers about vaping, the results were astounding: 5 out of the 5 students interviewed said that they know vaping goes around in the middle school.
Additionally, one anonymous student said, “I only vape in school because its my friend’s [vape]. I was going to get one but I didn’t know where to get it from.”
While high schoolers might have better access then middle school student, apparently it doesn’t stop some kids from trying to get one.
A Problem In Every School
DHS is not the only place facing this vape fad.
“Vaping is a problem at every school in the country,” Huron Assistant Principal Mr. Summerton said.
Not only did Huron's administration say this is a problem nationwide, but Koenig echoed those thoughts.
“It's definitely nationwide talk to a friend from many schools and not only in Michigan this is a problem everywhere,” Koenig said.
Koenig also noted a nationwide conference they hold for principals and that vaping was the biggest topic at the last one.
Is Vaping Really Bad For You?
Although many people who vape like to argue that vaping is not a harmful activity, the effects of the chemicals in vapes are still not well studied and the ones that have been identified do have negative side effects.
Below are nine harmful chemicals found in E-juice:
- Acetaldehyde - can build up in the body and is a group 1 carcinogen.
- Cadmium - a metal that can be found is hazardous waste.
- Formaldehyde - sticks to white blood cells and has been linked to cancer.
- Isoprene - can cause irritation to the nose and throat.
- Lead - linked to increased risk of high blood pressure.
- Nickel - if breathed chronic bronchitis can occur.
- Nicotine - Highly addictive chemical.
- Nitrosonornicotine - Also a group 1 carcinogen and can mutate cells.
Based on the information collected during this investigation and accounts from both teachers, administration, students and local authorities, vaping is a real problem that is exponentially growing in schools nationwide.
Although there is not a solution that has worked in controlling this problem yet, school administration will continue tackling it. Additionally, although vaping may be a great alternative to smoking, that is no excuse for using it for anything else. The chemicals in vapes have been linked to negative consequences and have not been explored enough to be properly addressed as being "safe". Information will continue to be revealed about vapes over time, and there is no doubt that it likely will follow the trend of smoking.
"Is vaping good? No," Moran said. "Are [kids] gonna do something? Yes. So let’s educate them about it. Let’s talk to them when the occasion arises. But we’re here to teach kids. And so, if I’m having a really good teaching experience and a kid vapes, “Okay, jerk. Knock if off; don’t do that. Let’s get back to this thing.” If we turn all our energy on stopping them from vaping, that’s just stupid."