Vaping epidemic prevails


graphic by mikayla mellis

Faizah Saadmim and Christopher Cao

graphic by mikayla mellis

Teen vaping rates and e-cigarette related deaths have been rising since 2017. The CDC has confirmed 1,479 vaping-related injuries and 33 deaths in the United States over the past six months.
In response to the rise in teen vaping deaths across the country, the Maryland Department of Health increased the age for all tobacco and e-cigarette sales.

“Effective October 1, 2019, the statewide sales age increases to 21 for all tobacco products, including electronic smoking devices (e-cigarettes, vapes, pod-based devices such as JUUL and their e-liquids, and component parts and accessories),” the Maryland Department of Health announced.

The vaping epidemic has even caught the attention of the national government with the Trump Administration proposing a ban on the sale of most flavored e-cigarettes. The Food and Drug Administration furthered national action when they issued a warning later to JUUL for marketing dozens of unauthorized e-cigarette products to teenagers.

Students are skeptical about the efficacy of new legislations in deterring teen vaping and worried about the possibility of it pushing teenagers to harder substances.

“[Teenagers] will find ways around it. And that they might try weed and alcohol which would be even worse” an anonymous sophomore said. “I have friends that get their siblings to buy it. Teens will always find a loophole.”

Although 73 percent of Dulaney students admitted to being aware of the recent vaping-related deaths, they have continued to use JUULs and other vape products.

“I’ve heard of the rise in vaping related deaths, but it didn’t change my vaping habits. I know it’s not funny and all, but we joke about it. I don’t think it is that big of a deal,” an anonymous junior said.

English teacher, Ashlynn Campbell, is concerned about how to discipline students and ultimately save their lives, when vaping is so easily concealed.

“Some people who vape are in my classes, but it’s so hard to see. There is no actual discipline to help guide them and save their lives,” Campbell said.

Teachers’ concerns are not unfounded as 10 percent of students admitted to juuling in the classroom through an anonymous pen-and-paper survey conducted in all English classes. Students are aware when teachers are not looking and use it to their advantage.

“It is really easy to take a hit when the teacher is at the front since they can’t see it. Also, juul pods have distinct flavors but you can’t exactly find the scent like in cigarettes,” an anonymous senior said. “Actually, one time I dropped my Juul on the floor and the teacher handed it back to me, thinking it was a flash drive.”

In the primary days of the juuling trend, many believed it was safer than cigarettes, but nurse Anna Lee Eyler set the record straight about the dangers of e-cigarettes.

“The problem is that everyone is only learning about the harmful effects now, as in the past everyone believed that it was better than cigarettes. Kids think [vaping] is better than cigarettes, but [e-cigarettes] actually have more nicotine. There are also a lot of harmful chemicals such as glycerol, which is used to make anti-freeze,” Eyler said.

An anonymous student athlete echoes this caution.

“E-cigarettes can actually be more dangerous than normal cigarettes, and a lot of people don’t know that or forget it. I’m an athlete so I don’t want to ingest anything that would mess up my body- especially not chemicals.”

Dulaney’s Parent Teacher Student Association is also looking to take specific steps to educate students about the harmful effects and fatal consequences of vaping through possible public service announcements. They are cognizant of the growing issue at Dulaney and have had multiple conversations about it at meetings. The PTSA even put on “Addicted,” a play with an overall message about addiction among teenagers.

The Baltimore County Public School system is also aware of the vaping epidemic and is evolving their drug safety programs to adapt to the new vape culture and its dangerous consequences.

“BCPS already has rehab programs and other programs to advance their cause to prevent smoking and alcohol. Now they are moving towards addressing vaping,” Eyler said.

Campbell has kept an open line of communication with her students about vaping, knowing the impact it has on life or death.

“There have been people who died from [vaping]. I talk about it openly in my classes, saying that if they don’t learn anything [in class], just know that you shouldn’t vape,” Campbell said.