The Age of Vaping

Chris Dunlaevy, Editor in Chief

The Rhode Island General Assembly has signed a bill that will prohibit anyone from vaping on school property, coming into effect on January 1st. This will apply to North Kingstown High School, as well as all Rhode Island schools.

According to Donna Sweet, Assistant Principal, she doesn’t know what legal consequences will be for any students caught vaping on school property after January first. “It’s still to be determined,” she said. However, she did make clear that she would pursue it. “If it’s a citation, whatever it may be. Internally, they are not allowed on our campus, this will just be another layer to deter the practice of it in our school.”

She feels that one of the biggest problems with vaping is that many students just do not want to be around it. “They don’t want to leave the bathroom smelling like they’ve vaped. Many students quietly say that they do not like this. Some [students] are posting it on social media, which to me is blatantly obstinate.”

As far as student privacy goes, she is not allowed to, and would never want to put cameras in the bathrooms. “I don’t want to police everything. We’d like to know that all kids are making great choices. We’d never want kids to make a decision today, that would affect them down the line, in a negative way. I want everyone to be healthy and happy.”

She is most concerned that students are unaware of what this technology is doing to their body. “In most vape pens, it’s a chemical over a hot metal heat element and students are putting it into their lungs. Most times, when we take a vape pen from a student, they swear there’s no nicotine in it, and there usually is.”

Student Assistance Counselor A.M Finlay knows that as vaping develops, the benefits and the risks are constantly changing. “Approximately 10 years ago, it hit the United States market, and started out marketing to adults 18 or older. If someone was trying to lessen their smoking intake, the idea was that they could buy a vape, for the smoking sensation. If you have a choice between tobacco and vaping, ideally, vaping is the healthier choice. If you have a choice, not doing any is the best choice as of right now. She says that there is no perfect number of times that you vape that you will get addicted. “What the trend is showing, is if you vape, you’re more likely to use nicotine. If you vape, you’re more likely to try other things. We don’t know the number, because research is trying to figure it out, because it’s so new.”

What irritates Sweet the most about vaping, is that a company is purposefully marketing and manufacturing the product to get the user addicted. They do this either through more claims of more positive health effects, or the use of different flavors, which appeal to a younger generation.  She said, “You either have an addictive personality or you don’t, and if you do someone’s making money off of it, and it bothers me that kids don’t see that and adults don’t see that.”

After the hard hitting ad campaigns by cigarette companies in the 50s and 60s, when new research came out suggesting smoking could cause damage to the body, tobacco companies began losing millions of dollars. The biggest penalties came in the last decade, when judges ruled in a number of court cases that penalized companies for marketing to children, and releasing false information in their advertising campaigns.

Now, Finlay believes she knows what tobacco companies stand to gain from teenagers vaping. “The United States has almost shut down the tobacco industry, and they had to create a new way to reach a new market. I’m wondering if vaping is their new way, and high school students are their new market.”

As for the people that think vaping is just a water mist, she says think again. “It’s not just a water mist, it’s actually an aerosol. An aerosol with potentially harmful chemicals. One major one is glycerin, and the other is nicotine.”

For the people that want to know just how harmful vaping is, she has an answer. “Your generation will show us how harmful it is.  The FDA needs to have so many people die or get sick from a product before they start regulating, what’s in vapes, who uses vapes. Because the marketing is going towards your generation, i’m going to assume your generation will have the most.”

The marketing for vaping is beginning to gear more towards Hispanic and African American groups of people. “They are finding that certain groups will lean toward certain things, like different vapes cost different amounts of money. Someone who has more money, or more access to the internet will buy a more expensive vape, so they can range from anyone to anywhere.”

After the bill goes into effect, starting January 1st, everyone, regardless of age will be prohibited from vaping on all Rhode Island public school property. That includes adults, parents, teachers, as well as students.

However, Sweet still believes that there are more students in the building doing the right thing than doing the wrong thing. “It’s easy to make assumptions about who’s doing what. I’ve seen honors students, I’ve seen athletes, making the wrong choices.” She believes that as adults, they have a job to keep students on the right path, and refuses to stand by while “students are doing something wrong.” She said, “My biggest belief is that you’re either part of the problem or part of the solution. I’m part of the solution.”