BY: JESSICA BARTH AND SHANNON YOUMANS
If you’re walking down the hall and smell cherries or mint, it most likely isn’t perfume or chewing gum. Although the clouds of smoke from vapes are typically inhaled discreetly, the smell from them is not concealed as easily.
If you follow the smell, you can find groups of teenagers passing around vapes through sleeves and behind backs, usually crowded in hidden corners or bathroom stalls.
One anonymous post claimed we are in the midst of “the great vape epidemic” at Shen, claiming it is impossible to go into a bathroom in the high school without encountering vapers.
Another post expresses concern saying “vaping in our middle schools and high schools is becoming a problem that we can’t ignore.”
The responses to these posts range from comical to dismissive. The anonymous Shen official who responds to these blog posts frequently answers with “these actions have consequences” or “it takes a village.”
But if there are strict consequences for the students who choose to vape in school, how is it still such a huge problem at Shen?
A senior at Shenendehowa,17, who chose to remain anonymous said “vaping is popular in high school because teenagers view it as a rebellious act without any serious consequences.”
However, Michael, another senior at Shenendehowa, has experienced the repercussions of vape use in the school.
He mentioned that he is a frequent vaper, and “former cigarette addict.”
“I have been searched a couple of times for vaping, but it never forces me to fully stop, everyone does it,” he said.
Class assistant principal, Lucas Labarre said that any student caught using a vape or in possession of any vape parts results in automatic suspension.
“We have had about 40 suspensions this year,” he said.
Even students that do not vape are well aware of this phenomenon in Shen. Maddy, a senior who rarely uses vaporizers, said “nobody really did it a while ago and now everyone does.”
The common use of vapes at this high school could be due to the plethora of vape shops in relative distance to the school. Vapor Geekz and 51Vape are within minutes of each other, and the school, while Smoke Signals is down Route 9.
The increase use in vaporizers in comparison to cigarettes demonstrates its popularity. Cigarette smoking among teens has dropped from 16 percent to 9 percent in recent years, while the use of e-cigarettes has risen to 13 percent.
An anonymous senior at Shen commented, “Vaping feels more like your lungs will actually survive, cigarettes feel like dirt.”
With technology on a rise, vapes are only getting smaller and easier for teenagers to conceal. This also creates a grey area for administration, as these devices are so rampant it becomes nearly impossible for schools such as Shenendehowa to fully enforce the code of conduct.
Labarre said “This has been an issue for about four or five years now. In the past, these devices were big mods that were nearly 200 dollars. Now, they are small and disposable allowing kids to throw them away quickly if caught.”
As one grapevine post asked, “There is a huge vaping problem at Shen. Is anyone going to address it?”
Like many issues, vaping is being addressed through education, and largely being put into the hands of teenagers. Health classes in Shenendehowa address the possible dangers of vaping, and the lack of research on any major health defects.
Labarre noted the concern he has for students health, saying “Our largest concern, as these have become so popular, is that they can be used for a variety of things, including illegal drug use such as THC based products. There is a misconception that they aren’t bad for you, but recent studies are showing that they are just as harmful, if not more harmful, than cigarettes.”
Despite being provided with this information, one anonymous senior said “everyone is a follower now and everyone gets one.”
Another senior mentioned that “at the end of the day, it is still an addiction.”
Although a large percentage of teens with vapes may walk around with them to follow the latest trend or appear cool, we must assume that some of these teens are actually addicted to their devices. Teens are, in fact, the most susceptible group to addiction.
Just as cigarettes used to be commonplace on school grounds, vapes have now filled the space that they left behind.