The Severity of The Vaping Issue
by Maddie Gunnell and Anika Buder-Greenwood
The vaping epidemic has come to the forefront of Packer conversations, alongside the hotly discussed topic of sexual assault. After the tenth grade recently completed an anonymous survey in health class about vaping and other drugs, in which the percent of sophomores who vaped regularly was recorded as 47% (class of ‘20), an enormous increase from last year’s 3% (class of ‘19), Packer started to realize the true seriousness of the problem.
“I’m not going to call out this year’s tenth grade,” said Head of Health Department Karen Brandt. “What I can say is that it mirrors national data we are looking at, which is that there is a statistically significant increase in vaping from last year to this year, nationally, as well as in our school.”
After the alarming survey results, multiple disciplinary cases surrounding vaping, examining the policies of other schools, and numerous meetings among Packer faculty, the school decided to create a much needed vaping policy, which was shared with students during recent graderooms.
Generally, one of the reasons that vaping is so appealing to kids is the fact that they think it is safe, or “not as bad as cigarettes”, said one anonymous sophomore during a graderoom. One of the health teachers, Bridget Londay, commented on the most concerning aspect of vaping culture at Packer: “…I think one of the biggest risks surrounding vaping is that kids think it’s safe.” Many students are misinformed about vaping, and the main role of the graderooms was to deliver information to students.
“And so in the tenth grade I asked them: what’s the equivalent of a juul pod in cigarettes, and I heard as little as two cigarettes, and it’s a pack of cigarettes. And so I think a lot of people just think it’s harmless, it’s marketed as helping people quit smoking, but really, if you are doing a juul pod per day, you’re a pack a day smoker,” said Ms. Londay with a concerned look.
During these graderooms, students were given facts surrounding vaping, and told they could hand in their vape device and not receive punishment other than the notification of parents. “I feel like notifying the parents, while I know why they have to do it, that just sort of ruined any chance of anybody actually turning in a vape, because nobody wants their parents to find out what they’ve been doing,” said a sophomore. The deans, alongside the health department, say the purpose of this was to offer support to students.
“If someone comes in with their vape device and says ‘I’m really struggling with this,’ we have to notify the parents because it is substance abuse, and it is addiction,” says Dean of Student Life Allison Bishop.
After this announcement, none of the deans received any vape devices. “One student said to me, there are a lot of garbage cans, why would I choose the garbage can under my dean’s desk to dispose of my vape pen? And yes, they have a valid point.” says Ms. Brandt.
Overall, the main purpose of the new vape policy and the graderooms was to inform the students on how harmful vaping is, and to communicate that support is here for those who need it. “The number one concern is health and safety, but it has to be something where there’s a policy,” says Ms. Bishop.