Too Juul for School?
Spyglass conducted an anonymous survey of Upper School students and asked them questions about their experience with vaping. This article shares the responses to three of the questions asked, which were answered by a total of 141 high schoolers. It should be noted that the majority of responses come from freshmen, while only 24 out of 64 members of the senior class responded to the survey.
Once considered a safer alternative to smoking, vaping has emerged as a social phenomenon, but now new studies reveal the use of e-cigarettes pose serious and sometimes fatal health consequences. 47 people across the United States have died from vaping-related illnesses since August.
The term “vaping” refers to inhaling the vapor from a liquid cartridge that contains THC or nicotine inside a battery-powered device. Juul is a tobacco company that manufactures these e-cigarettes, many of which are flavored to taste more appealing and consequently increase the risk of addiction, especially for teenagers. “Juuling” is often used as a verb synonymous with vaping. All over the country, it has become an epidemic that now affects one in four high school students. So what does the national vape culture look like on Westridge’s campus?
“I vape at least five times every day,” admitted one Upper Schooler who asked to remain anonymous. Even though this student is aware of the impact of e-cigarettes, she has not changed her habits. “I think that a lot of teenagers and young people have an invincible attitude like nothing is going to stop them or break them,” the student revealed.
Other students opened up about the role social media plays in influencing their perception of vaping. Phia H. ’20 explained that many teenagers post vaping videos on platforms such as Instagram and Snapchat. She has felt social pressure to vape because of this. “People make jokes about how you’re not cool if you don't vape, but [I] know they believe it,” she said.
Phia wonders why teenagers often feel so compelled to vape, considering the health risks: “It’s just not smart. Why would you do it?”
Another upper school student, who asked to remain anonymous, used to occasionally vape with friends for fun. After vaping one night, she contracted pneumonia and missed an entire week of school. “I think [vaping] really exacerbated my symptoms,” she disclosed. Research conducted by The Journal of Clinical Investigation suggests that vaping does increase the risk of pneumonia and also makes users more vulnerable to viruses.
Since this incident, the student has reevaluated her decision to vape. “Never again,” she declared. “I don't [vape] at all anymore because getting pneumonia was such a horrible experience. It probably wouldn’t have been as bad as it was if I hadn’t been vaping that night.”
She wanted to offer some advice to other students. “Pay attention to how these things affect your body,” she warned.
Westridge Human Development hopes to teach students exactly that. This year, at least one lesson about vaping has been officially added to the ninth grade Human Development curriculum. Spyglass reached out to Westridge’s Human Development Coordinator Zoe Muñoz about how the Human Development curriculum addresses vaping. No comment was offered.
Based on the results from the survey, it seems like Westridge Upper Schoolers vape less often and feel less pressured to do so compared with national averages. Regardless, many students still believe that it’s an important topic to talk about on campus. Jamie G. ’20 thinks Westridge should continue providing a space to examine the issue. “Vaping is so detrimental but rarely addressed in a more complex way than just ‘don't smoke!’” she said. “Let’s keep talking about why people may vape and vaping addictions.”