Commentary: The covert addiction parents don’t know about

While many assume the most prominent addictions among adolescents are drugs such as alcohol and marijuana, teens are now commonly becoming dependent on another substance: “nicotine vaping.”

Vaping is the process of inhaling vaporized liquid from e-cigarettes. It is prohibited in all Weston public schools.

Drugs and alcohol are addressed by the school’s Drug and Alcohol Initiative and a “senior seminar” that all seniors are required to take. But vaping doesn’t quite fit into the category of “drugs” or “alcohol.”

Vaping possesses no illicit chemicals and is 100% legal for people over the age of 18. These factors more realistically put vaping into the category of “tobacco products.”

Matthew Filip, assistant principal of Weston High School, said he worries students will become dependent on vaping because the nicotine in it is addictive.

“Like with any addictive substance, that dependency can affect other parts of your life. That  includes your success at school,” said Filip. “It also concerns me that e-cigarettes are thought of as being safer than cigarettes, and thus students may be more inclined to try it because they don’t think it’s very harmful.”

While vaping is prohibited on campus, students are still doing it there. As a result, Filip said, the schools are tightening the consequences for students found vaping.

“The fact is, the substances found in e-cigarettes can damage the heart, lungs and other organs. The health effects are real,” Filip said. “For these reasons, Weston Public Schools recently revised its policy on vaping to increase the consequences for students found to be vaping in school.”

As a Weston High School student, for  the past two years, I’ve noticed a significant increase in the number of students who are vaping. Kids in all grades are doing it and it has become a daily social activity among all groups and types of students. Low-GPA students are vaping, high-GPA students are vaping, there are no exceptions.

So why are they vaping? The simple answer is, students are addicted to nicotine. I believe they aren’t becoming addicted to nicotine by smoking cigarettes — they are starting their nicotine addiction through vaping.

Unfortunately, there has been no concrete study released yet on the long-term health effects of vaping because the e-cigarette industry is relatively new. However, what we do know is that the habit is extremely addictive.

Whether it’s physically addictive because of nicotine, or mentally addictive because of the habit, students are spending an increasing amount of money on vaping. 

Vaporizers used to look like large, intrusive, colorful metal boxes that the average person could identify. However, their appearance is changing.

They’ve become smaller, sleeker, and subtler. The best-selling vaporizer is called a JUUL. These vapes look like small USB drives and are often mistaken for them.

The chemicals used in the juice that produces the vape, known as “e-juice,” are vegetable glycerin, propylene glycol and nicotine.

Vegetable glycerin is made from plant oil and can be found in many common foods such as cheese, processed meats and processed vegetables. Propylene glycol is a known “probable carcinogen.” And nicotine is considered one of the “five most addictive substances on Earth,” according to addictioncenter.com.

But while we may think we know what is in “e-juice,” we know only what the e-juice companies want us to know. This is because there are no e-juices that are FDA-approved.

Sheryl Zulkeski, the nurse at Weston High School, said it’s hard to determine how harmful vaping is for your health. “But we can safely assume that inhaling any foreign substance into your lungs is not good. Any type of carcinogen that is inhaled by the lungs can do permanent damage,” she said.

“I like to tell kids it’s not worth the risk,” said Joe Mogollon, Weston High School’s school resource officer.

At the end of the day, it is up to parents to decide whether to allow their children to vape.

Who knows the negative effects vaping can have on a child’s developing lungs?

Parents need to educate their children about addiction and how harmful it can be. If the vapor doesn’t affect you, the addiction will.

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  • Nate

    How does Mr. Hathaway account for the fact that, according to CDC statistics, upwards of 60% of teen vapers use zero-nicotine liquid exclusively? If “nicotine addiction” is the only reason anyone vapes, this seems highly incongruous, wouldn’t you say?

    Also, propylene glycol absolutely is not a “probable carcinogen.” This is a factual error and should be retracted immediately.

  • charlie

    I started smoking as a kid. I wish ecigs had been around back then. Schools should decide what kids can bring into the building and that should never change. Parents should decide if their kids can possess an ecig the rest of the time.

    BTW I believe what attracts kids to smoking or vaping is the visual part. “It’s the cloouds bro”. Kids see cloud toys not electric cigarettes. If a kid vapes with no nicotine at low power on a safely regulated device are you still concerned? May be all this fuss is about tobacco taxes and who will be paying them, or not paying them, in the future. If the kids don’t smoke the tobacco age is over. Who wants to interfere with that?

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