By Brooklyn Waller, Youth Advisory Council member
Brooklyn Waller is a high school senior in Arkansas. She advocates for those without access to health care and for students to take advantage of their local school-based health centers.
You see them everywhere: a commercial, the local grocery store, in people’s hands. The popularity of E-Cigarettes has reached a high in this generation. People are still choosing to vape despite the harmful effects it can cause, especially teens. Across the nation, the usage of E-Cigarettes by teens is steadily increasing and I have seen this advancement at my own school. While the popularity of smoking has decreased with the creation of E-Cigarettes, many teens are peer pressured into thinking that vaping is a safe and healthier alternative. The role of the parents and the administration becomes making students aware that E-Cigarettes are not safer than real cigarettes because they have the same amount of nicotine and harmful effects on the body.
Across the nation, the usage of E-Cigarettes by teens is steadily increasing and I have seen this advancement at my own school.
Have you ever heard a story that made your jaw drop to the ground? A story that is so harsh, you don’t believe it. At my school in Arkansas, I had this jaw-dropping moment a few weeks ago when I heard about a girl in my grade, a senior. She was using her Juul, when suddenly it blew up in her face. Her method of fun quickly turned into a circumstance of disaster. Not only was the inside of her mouth burned, but she also had substantial blisters on her lips. If that doesn’t make you never want to vape, I don’t know what will! If she wouldn’t have fallen into the popular peer-pressure of using an E-Cigarette, she might still could drive her car or scroll on her phone. She must now face the consequences. Many teens use nicotine before the age of 18, and don’t think about the circumstances they might face: lung damage, blistered throats, breaking the habit. “The Vape Talk.” American Lung Association, www.lung.org/stop-smoking/vape-talk/. Students used to face pressure about the clothes they wore or the grades they received. Now the pressure has shifted into if they vape or how many pods they use in a week. How many more teens in our schools, neighborhoods, or communities are we going to let E-Cigarettes blow up in their face?
I wish that I could tell you that the aforementioned story is the only one that I have heard this month. Unfortunately, that is not the case, and, in fact, that is just one of the many. Another story occurs in an unusual place. School bathrooms are built as a facility for students to use every day. Three girls at my school, however, were reported for using an E-Cigarette in the bathroom. Imagine being so addicted to the popularity of using that you must do it at school…in the bathroom. These girls were suspended. When I heard the story, I was genuinely shocked. I asked myself, “How could someone want to damage their education by doing that,” and “Why would they record it?” Schools are where test scores are high and character is built, but parents and administration often forget that I also go to a school where peer pressure is growing and so is vaping. What I don’t know is how to fix the issue, and I’m not sure if anyone does. What I do know is that vaping is not worth the cost of ruining your path to success through education. The three girls have the opportunity to get a public education but were willing to risk it for the 3 second feel good they got from vaping. It makes me upset to think about that. Vaping doesn’t just damage your lungs or throat, but it can also wreak havoc on your social life too.
Students used to face pressure about the clothes they wore or the grades they received. Now the pressure has shifted into if they vape or how many pods they use in a week.
It is understandable if you’re thinking, “Ok, but what now?” Now, we must act in reminding others of the issue. The reason we haven’t seen an increase in change with the vaping epidemic isn’t from a lack of resources, but rather ignorance. If schools and parents believe that it is just a phase or that students already know the long-term outcome, they need to reevaluate that belief. Vaping is not a phase, but rather a harmful addiction that can last a lifetime. By educating students on the lasting effects of their choice, we are creating a conversation of truth. By educating parents on seeing the signs of vaping, we can make a path that is honest and shame free. By educating administration on the growth of vaping among teenagers, we can form more reliable resources for the student seeking help. When we take time to educate, there is always a better outcome. How will a student know that using an E-Cigarette is bad for them, if we never talk about it? They won’t. I know that we sugarcoat the epidemic that vaping is often, but from my perspective, we don’t have time for that. We don’t have time to avoid the subject, when it’s a subject that will affect a generation. The consequences of vaping shouldn’t be taken lightly. I want to see a change in the growth; I want to see a decrease in product usage because I see the damage it has done to many at my school. What number of students being harmed will it take for the issue to be discussed in daily conversation? By speaking up on your experience with E-Cigarettes, you are inspiring those around you to speak up too. If students, parents, and administration in schools are actively involved in the conversation, the harmful effects of E-Cigarettes can’t go unnoticed.