Fruit Flavored Fumes
The neon hues of blue, pink, and green on the packaging make it stick out like a sore thumb on the shelves of bodegas and convenience stores across the country. The bright labeling and fruity flavors conceal it among the shelves of candy where it fits right in. But under the bubbly shell of packaging is actually a dangerous dose of nicotine.
Today’s teenagers have been struck by the epidemic of vaping. Vaping paraphernalia has evolved to target teenagers more heavily, with many of the sweet flavors and colorful advertisements designed to appeal to a younger market. According to the National Institute of Drug Abuse, seven in ten teens are exposed to vaping ads. Large corporations have built up the appeal of vaping with their new marketing strategy, and it is getting kids hooked. Vapes, meant to be a safer alternative for current smokers, have instead created an entirely new generation of nicotine addicts.
“Our generation was supposed to be the one to break the cycle of nicotine addiction. We were trained to avoid cigarettes with all of the ads that would be shown on television, but the new sleek look of e-cigarettes has just dragged people back in,” said one anonymous Packer senior.
Nicotine addiction, manifesting itself in the form of Juuls in particular, has infiltrated the social sphere of American high schools. For many, what began as a harmless ‘hit’ has developed into consistent nicotine use. “Kids don’t understand the implications and repercussions of vaping going forward, and they just use it for clout,” said Julian Isikoff (‘20).
The new phenomenon has resulted in hospitalizations, and in extreme cases, even death. The Center for Disease Control have already confirmed 26 vape-related deaths, and the numbers are rapidly increasing. The health ramifications have been shown to be both long- and short-term, with vaping causing persisting lung ailments, as well as the recently reported dangers of e-cigarettes exploding in the faces of users. Multiple cases of exploding vaping devices have left teens with facial damage and shattered jaws, bringing the safety of vaping even further into question.
However, it seems that teenagers everywhere continue to pick up the devices. “I think it is totally normalized, which it shouldn’t be,” said Julian.
He added that “people are spending the time to educate kids about the dangers of vaping and people still choose not to listen, which frustrates me” and noted that “just because it doesn’t explode in your face doesn’t mean that it won’t cause you harm.”
Bridget Londay, Head of the Health Department, echoed the sentiment, saying that “The health risks are many and varied. The specific risk with vaping is that if you are just taking a vape that someone is handing you, you don’t know what could be in it. It can be anything from THC, nicotine, flavor, just water, there is a range of things that people put into vapes.”
This danger is further amplified by the recent ban that the state of New York put into effect on the sale of flavored e-cigarettes. This means that more teens will likely head to the black market to get their fix, increasing the potential for them to use vapes that have been tampered with.
“People are tinkering with vapes, so we really do not know what people are putting in them,” said Ms. Londay. “Sometimes people are taking vapes, dismantling the actual device, and filling it with liquid so that they can provide it for cheaper and make more money off of it. When they do that the liquid can leak out onto people’s hands or mouths it can cause seizures, so that is a huge health risk.”
Vaping is evidently a dangerous habit, and one that can be hard to drop. The Packer health department is always available to help any students who feel that they have a problem with vaping. “As with any sort of health related concern, you have the health department and the nurse’s office. You can reach out to your advisor, your dean, or anybody that you feel comfortable talking to so that we make sure that we are activating support for you” said Ms. Londay.