Students continue using e-cigarettes on school grounds despite potential consequences

By Katherine Dominek and Clare Driscoll, ’19

*Denotes source who requested anonymity

As soon as junior Audrey Molnar walks into a second floor girl’s restroom, a haze obscures her sight and her nose fills with a nauseating odor. She pauses, and the cloud dissipates quickly. The smoke is seemingly vapor, the product of electronic cigarettes. However, the issue may be more than meets the eye.

“It happens at least once a week,” Molnar said. “I’ll walk in the bathroom, just minding my own business, and there’ll be a group of girls just hanging out in the back of the room vaping.” The use of e-cigarettes, also known as “vaping,” has become increasingly popular the past few years. According to the National Institute on Drug Abuse, “easy availability, alluring advertisements, various e-liquid flavors and the belief that they’re safer than cigarettes” attracts teens.

Senior John Doe*, an e-cigarette user, finds that there is an the appeal to vaping on school grounds. “I believe that vaping makes you look really cool,” Doe said. “When you go into the bathroom and vape instead of using the bathroom, it just makes you look so much cooler than everybody.”

According to the Center of Disease Control and Prevention, use of e-cigarettes has almost doubled since 2014. Principal Andrew Theado has noticed the increased use of e-cigarettes among students.

“Over the past few weeks, I have heard from both parents and students regarding the general use of electronic cigarettes by students,” Theado said Oct. 3 in an email sent to parents. “I believe this is a teaching opportunity for both our school community and our families. Having frank conversations about recreational drug use and what to do when confronted in this type of situation is an important part of helping our students transition into their adult lives.”

The Student Discipline Code, which is found in UAHS Students’ Rights and Responsibilities Handbook, details the consequences of using illicit substances on school grounds.

“Though e-cigarettes may not contain tar, vaping can still cause many health problems including gum disease, bloody sores, ‘smoker’s cough,’ fibroblast damage, the stiffening of heart vessels and even cancer.”

The code states that the possession or use of drugs is “prohibited and may subject the student to disciplinary action.” There is also the possibility of the action being reported to law enforcement. If a student is found to be selling or has the intent to sell illegal substances, he or she could be permanently excluded from attending schools in Ohio.

Despite a strong pushback from the administration, scenarios like the one described by Molnar seem to have become a norm.

“Vaping has definitely seen an uptick in use,” school resource officer Jon Rice said. “Reports are streaming in that students are vaping in the bathrooms during class.”

The school is currently looking into sensors in the restrooms that detect vapor.

In 2016, Ohio legislation was passed to raise the legal age to purchase tobacco products to 21. While the legal age to use tobacco has remained at 18, minors have still found ways around the law.

Doe said he gets his e-cigarettes from a friend who is over 18. He has found that e-cigarettes come in wide variety of prices, content and experience when compared to standard cigarettes.

“They’re cheaper, they’re safer, they’re easier to use, they’re more discreet, they don’t reek, and regular smoke clouds are not nearly as cool as vapor clouds. Plus, regular cigarettes have tar in them and I don’t want that in me,” Doe said.

Though e-cigarettes may not contain tar, according to Science News for Students, vaping can still cause many health problems including gum disease, bloody sores, “smoker’s cough,” fibroblast damage, the stiffening of heart vessels and even cancer.

“E-cigarettes may contain harmful substances. But the types or concentrations of chemicals a person is exposed to will vary by brand, type of device, and how it is used,” the American Society of Clinical Oncology explains on its site.

Regardless of the many legal and health consequences to vaping, students still continue to use these tobacco products on school grounds. This could be attributed to a common mindset that these users won’t be caught. Doe shares in this thinking since he has not yet been caught.

“Hell no,” he said. “I’m too good,”