Teen Vaping Epidemic

As young people are dying of lung disease associated with vaping, communities struggle to keep kids from starting this destructive habit. (Image from rnz.co.nz)

Many teens at Atascadero High School and around the United States have been exposed to the long term effects of vaping and e-cigarettes. On Sept. 13, according to the United States Food and Drug Administration (FDA), federal officials have concluded that 530 cases of reported vaping-lung illnesses have been reported across 38 states. Over the past couple of weeks, there have been eleven reported deaths from Minnesota, Indiana, and Los Angeles County attributed to vaping. According to a National Youth Tobacco Study, more than 3.6 million middle school and high school students today use e-cigarettes. Vape pens and e-cigarettes have moved their way onto AHS’s campus and have spread across campuses all over the United States. If vape pens and e-cigarettes were legally banned, teens wouldn’t be exposed to harmful effects vaping can have on a teen’s lungs.

Even though vaping is not legal for those under age 18, it is a common practice for high school students. Some users even start in junior high. Furthermore, while most teens here at AHS believe that vaping is safe and a better alternative to cigarettes, e-cigarettes and vape pens happen to contain extremely high amounts of concentrated nicotine that are very dangerous for young people and can lead to nicotine poisoning and addiction. Symptoms of nicotine poisoning include nausea, vomiting, dizziness, tremors, a quickened heartbeat, and sweating. In extreme cases, nicotine poisoning can cause seizures or death. Teens across the U.S. have been reported using vaping devices for both nicotine and THC, the psychoactive ingredient in marijuana that produces the “high” sensation, prior to their hospitalization according to Fox News. Teens being exposed to nicotine addiction and poisoning is causing legislators to consider shutting down the vaping industry in every way that it pertains to young people, like banning flavored vape cartridges; many states and cities have already done that.

Atascadero High Principal Mr. Neely said,” We are basically setting people up to become addicts.” While teens may have a choice to vape, do they really have a choice about what they are vaping? Since vaping was marketed as a safer alternative to smoking, many teens do not even know what is in the vaping liquid, which happens to contain toxic chemicals. Authorities are not positive about what precisely is causing the deaths, but suspect black market cartridges containing THC oil are to blame in some cases.

What most teens don’t understand is that while they think the ingredients in their e-cigarettes is simple flavoring, they might be surprised by what really is in e-cigarettes and vape pens. According the the National Public Radio website, most e-cigarettes contain a mix of propylene glycol, glycerin, nicotine, and vape flavoring. However when the mix of ingredients are heated, carbonyls are produced (according SmokeFree.gov). These compounds may include formaldehyde, acrolein, diacetyl, acetyl propionyl, and acetoin. Formaldehyde is a very toxic systemic poison that can be absorbed and can cause respiratory tract and skin irritation, dizziness, and suffocation. The City of Atascadero has recently announced that it has adopted a new Smoking Ordinance that went into effect on September 12, 2019. The new ordinance prohibits possession or use of tobacco or vaping, for any person under the age of 18, and now, in compliance with State Law, prohibits smoking and vaping in several locations throughout town, including all city-owned, leased, or operated buildings, all places of employment (in accordance with California Labor code 6404.5), and at all outdoor public events, as well as public transportation facilities.

However, according to the National Institute on Drug Abuse, among high school students, 56.3 percent are exposed to retail ads, 42.9 percent to internet ads, 38.4 percent to TV and movie ads, and 34.6 percent to newspaper and magazine ads for e-cigarettes. In order for the teen vaping epidemic to end, the vaping ads targeted toward teens must be eliminated, as well as the “kid friendly” flavors of vape juice.

Atascadero Unified School District Superintendent Mr. Thomas Butler wants students at AHS to know that, “I invite all of the community to join us in the fight against vaping. The Atascadero Unified School District is fully committed to the health and wellbeing of our students.” Mr. Butler also announced that the district will “apply swift and significant consequences for youth that violate our district’s non-smoking/non-vaping policy.”

Teens at the Atascadero High School and across the nation have been continuously exposed to the many different kinds of smoking devices that have shaped how today's teens are exposed to nicotine. These e-cigarettes and vape pens have led many youth to experiencing lung problems, reported seizures, and addiction. With the peer pressure teen’s experience to start vaping, Assistant Principal for Attendance and Discipline Mr. Allen advises students to “...take care of yourself and others.” Todays ads, magazines and social media have continued to influence teens to vape, leading them to have serious future health problems. In response to the vaping epidemic, Principal Neely said,” We are basically setting people up to become addicts.” He added,” Anyone who vapes is functioning as guinea pigs for the vaping industries.” He advises students to ”chew gum” instead of choosing to vape.

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