Words & Photo: Delanie Tucker
“I think [vapes] are way too easy for teenagers to get. I think teenagers are uneducated on how dangerous [vaping] is. I think the flavors do cater to a younger crowd. And I think [teens] have a misnomer that it’s safe,” said Marc Carneal, Centennial’s Student Resource Officer.
In today’s society, teen vaping has almost become normalized. Someone sees a high school student carrying around an e-cigarette, which will more often than not be a Juul, and they hardly bat an eye.
Centennial High School students do not stray from this pattern, leading to continuous administrative efforts to curb the issue of vaping in school.
Centennial’s principal, Cynthia Dillon, sent out a newsletter last year on September 21, 2018, informing the Centennial community of her concerns and what they can do to help fix it.
“I am concerned about this growing epidemic of use and abuse by kids in our community,” Dillon stated in the letter. “Juuling, which is essentially the same as vaping only with a different device, is on the rise nationally.”
Dillon is not the only Centennial administrator that has a strong opinion on the matter.
“I think [the vaping problem within Centennial] is very serious,” said Cameron Rahnama, Assistant Principal. “[Vapes] are a lot easier to conceal than cigarettes… so kids think they can get away with it easier.”
Most teenagers are convinced that vaping is a safe alternative to smoking. Some even start vaping because it is marketed as less harmful in comparison to smoking cigarettes, so they don’t think it will hurt them.
These minors are under the impression that there is less nicotine and other harmful substances in a Juul than in a standard cigarette, but that’s not true.
A single Juul pod contains around 45mg of nicotine, while a cigarette contains only 12mg. Juuls have the highest nicotine levels when compared to other e-cigarettes. The National Center for Health Research stated that the e-liquid in a Juul pod is 5 percent nicotine, which is staggeringly high considering the liquid in a Blu e-cig, another type of e-cigarette, is only 2.4 percent nicotine.
A common argument in defense of e-cigarettes is that only water vapor is inhaled, but what is actually being breathed in is called an aerosol. An aerosol is a gas made up of liquid particles that contain many toxic chemicals, which are created when the e-juice is heated up.
“The aerosol produced by vaping or juuling is inhaled deep into the lungs,” according to The Vape Experiment , an article published by the Maryland Department of Health. “Studies have found that inhaling these chemicals can lead to asthma, inflammation, and even make it permanently harder to breathe.”
The major chemicals found in the aerosol are propylene glycol, glycerol, lead, acetone, formaldehyde, acetaldehyde, tin, nickel, nicotine, propenal, diacetin, and triacitine, none of which belong in your lungs.
Teenagers’ willingness to overlook all of these statistics, which are publicly displayed with the intent of keeping minors from vaping, is leading to serious lung infections and, in some cases, death. In the past year alone there have been six recorded deaths caused by vaping-induced lung infections in the United States.
Fortunately, not all cases have been fatal.
“We have… seen at least 15 cases in Maryland and 380 across the country where individuals have been hospitalized with lung diseases associated with vaping,” Robert R. Neall, the Health Secretary for the MDH, said in an e-mailed statement, referring to statistics that were current as of September 10.
Those that vape like to push aside the idea of something like this occurring. Being put in the hospital because of vaping is not something people consider often because they don’t think that it will happen to them, but that’s not always true.
The possibility of falling ill should be a lot more obvious in Howard County now since, although we haven’t seen any local deaths, there has been a serious vaping issue very close to home.
A Centennial student, 18-year-old junior Nafees Basharat, was hospitalized with a lung infection and pneumonia.
“[The doctors] had to send a camera down my throat and vacuum up all the liquid in my lungs,” stated Basharat on his time in the hospital.
The experience drastically changed his life, as the time spent in a hospital bed opened his eyes to the damage vaping was doing to his body.
“Vaping was the worst decision of my life and it was really hard to stop until I was hospitalized. Before that, I wasn’t really aware of the problems and the health risks that came with [vaping],” Basharat explained. “[Vaping] can harm you. It can kill you. And it will most definitely ruin your life.”
As a result of all of the hospitalizations and deaths in America, the government has taken action to prevent the use of e-cigarettes by minors and young adults.
Locally, after adding e-cigarettes to the list of tobacco products, Maryland Governor Larry Hogan signed off on a bill that changed the legal age to buy tobacco from 18 to 21, which went into effect on October 1, 2019.
This bill was created in an effort to decrease the chances of minors getting a hold of the devices but there are, as always, people willing to sell to underage kids off the record.
Now, in an attempt to prevent any more minors from vaping, President Trump is moving to ban the sale of most flavored e-cigarettes and nicotine pods.
It has been speculated that the sale of those flavors, such as mint and mango, is done with the intent of making the products more appealing to younger buyers.
A potential problem with this proposed law is due to the high demand for flavored pods. There is a chance that people might start making their own and selling them. This could lead to further, and potentially more dangerous, health hazards, as most people wouldn’t know how to properly make one.
Officer Carneal does not believe that the new law will have any effect on underage vaping.
“I think no matter what, someone will buy it for them.”
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