As e-cigarette dangers grow, teens struggle with addiction

artwork by Sydney Gonzales

YOUR VIEW: What you are saying about vaping

“It may seem like a fun thing to do, but it’s wrong. Yet, I don’t care because it has me hooked””

— sophomore vaper

(Editor’s note: Some of the names of vapers have been withheld on condition of anonymity.) 

  The teen hid in the bathroom stall as puffs of smoke filling the air, and he listened for footsteps in the doorway. He was addicted and he couldn’t stop.

  This scene becomes more common as selling vapes, e-cigarettes and cigarettes became a criminal act with a new law on Sept. 1, which bans the sale of these items to anyone born after Aug. 31, 2001.

  The habit of vaping has taken off like wildfire in the past three years after companies originally marketed the usage as safe or healthy alternatives to smoking tobacco products.

  “In today’s society,” senior Brianna Moreno said. “People vape because if you’re not doing what everyone else is doing you don’t fit in.”

 Vaping has become an increasing problem as 33 deaths in 24 states and 1,479 cases of lung illness reported in 49 states as of Oct. 15 according to the Center for Disease Control. These numbers are increasing as many as eight to 10 deaths every two weeks, and lung illness numbers have almost doubled in the last month. 

  “I know that it’s a harmful vapor that contains nicotine,” junior Carrie Quiring said. “The vapor exhaled isn’t harmful to surrounding people like smoking is, and it only harms the user, but I still wouldn’t do it because it has a lot of dangers.”

 Vaping can cause pulmonary disease or obstructed airflow and can change the brain causing addiction according to

 “It’s very addictive,” nurse Cheryl Houston said. “Medical journals say it can give you a disease called chemical pneumonia.”

  Chemical pneumonia is an unusual type of lung irritation caused by bacteria or a virus causing further addiction. Teenagers have become addicted through the influence of classmates and adults who supply them with the vape devices illegally.

  “I’m addicted to vaping,” one junior said. “I just can’t stop doing it or thinking of it.”

  Sophomore Makayla Randolph said she has witnessed her friends vaping but doesn’t know what to do about it.

  “I get really worried for the people I know that vape,” Randolph said. “They could be deeply affected by it, but if it’s their choice I can’t stop them.”

  Both e-cigarettes and regular cigarettes contain nicotine, which research suggests may be as addictive as heroin and cocaine, according to Johns Hopkins’ medicine website.  E-cigarette users get even more nicotine than they would from a tobacco product because of extra-strength cartridges with high concentrations of nicotine which makes vaping even more of a danger.

  “Last year someone offered a vape to me without nicotine,” one sophomore said. “I started adding nicotine to it myself, and I’ve been vaping ever since then.”

  Vaping has increased rapidly from seven million people in 2011 to over 41 million in 2019 causing a rise in usage on school property.

  “A lot of people do it because they don’t realize what it can do to you,” one junior said. “They’re just too blinded by its popularity like I am.”

  Principal Robert Chappell said 20 students have been caught vaping that he knows of this school year.

  “Vaping is a bigger problem than most people realize,” Chappell said. “Kids who do it don’t realize that if they have other health issues, it exacerbates their problems.”

  Vape pens come with a wide price range from $25 to $3,000 and are being sold both legally and illegally all over the country.

  “It can be sold almost anywhere,” one junior said. “I don’t get my vapes from school, unlike most people.”

  The theory was that vape devices would help cigarette smokers quit smoking, but further research showed that young people who use e-cigarettes may be more likely to smoke cigarettes in the future to health associates of Yale Medicine. 

  “It’s hard to stop vaping,” one senior said. “I’m surrounded by it on a day-to-day basis.”

  As cases of vaping illness and death grow, the addiction plaguing high school students rises, and most cannot seem to quit.

   “It may seem like a fun thing to do but it’s wrong,” one sophomore said. “Yet, I don’t care because it has me hooked.”