Vaping Epidemic

Evan McHenry

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If you have been following the news recently, you’ve likely heard of the “vaping epidemic” in the United States. The topic has made headlines recently after several vaping-related deaths have occurred. This recent uptick in deaths related to e-cigarettes correlates with a general rise of e-cigarette use across the United States—and not just by of-age adults; from 2017 to 2018, e-cigarette use by high schoolers increased by 78% according to the National Youth Tobacco Survey. 

Because Seabury is a smaller school, students vaping is not going to pass under the radar as easily as in public schools. Regarding the use of vape products in public schools, junior Harrison Hartzler says, “I see them around a lot. Not at Seabury as much, but around the community. I see high schoolers with them all the time. Like every other high schooler I know outside of Seabury has definitely owned one or owns one.” 

Freshman Oliver Rubenstein concurs, saying, “Being at a private school, I feel like vapes aren’t as available as they would be at a public school.” Regarding their overall prevalence among teenagers, eighth-grader Grant Bryan says, “they seem kind of common.” 

While the use of e-cigarettes has increased recently, the illegal use of tobacco products by teenagers is not a new thing. Faculty member Leslie McCaffrey says, “When I was a kid, everybody smoked cigarettes, but there wasn’t as much nicotine as there is in vapes.” It is true that some vape products contain a greater amount of nicotine than cigarettes, but their appeal to teenagers seems to be for a different reason: “They say that [vapes] are definitely not targeted for teens, but obviously they are,” says McCaffrey. “Like what 50-year-old woman is gonna be enticed by something being blueberry flavored?” 

Unlike cigarettes, vapes can come in appealing flavors. A commonly used vape brand, Juul, sells flavors such as Watermelon, Mango, Mint and Strawberry Lemonade, to name a few. Regarding this, Rubenstein says, “They’re marketing towards underage kids. That’s just wrong. It’s definitely smart, but it’s not okay.” According to the National Institute on Drug Abuse, 7 out of 10 teenagers have been exposed to e-cigarette advertising. So while they may claim their products are intended for adults only, e-cigarette manufacturers are reaching a younger audience and market. 

Despite its prevalence, vaping still seems to have fairly negative and delinquent connotations. Rubenstein says, “I just don’t see the reason to have them. They’re not very good for you; they don’t really have any health benefits.” 

Similarly, Hartzler says, “I believe vaping is dangerous. It puts you in the mindset that abusing substances is good, and that can lead to other things.” Since e-cigarettes are fairly accessible, they make nicotine and its addictive nature more accessible, too. Recently, e-cigarette use has become even more negatively charged, as more and more cases of vape-related deaths crop up. Regarding the recent publicity about vaping deaths, Hartzler says, “I’m hearing on the news about things that are happening now, and I can definitely see [vaping] has a negative effect.” 

This negative attention may bring harsher legal crackdowns on underage vape use as well as a greater number of people realizing the dangers of using e-cigarettes. Regarding this, McCaffrey adds, “Kids didn’t listen to all the things saying how bad vaping is until … people started dying, and now the kids are like, ‘Whoa, maybe vaping is not the thing to do,’ but it took things becoming that drastic before kids thought that, and that’s too bad.”