Vape Nation: Nicotine addictions still prevalent among students

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“Hey, can I get a hit?”  

“Could you buy me pods?” 

Walking down the halls, students hear talk about Juuls flying under the radar of teachers and administration. Despite the campaigns to end underage vaping, there has been very little progress made to actually end the problem 

“I usually go with my friends to the bathroom just to hit my Juul, like every period,” an anonymous junior said. “I’m addicted.” 

It is a problem seen both in and out of school; it has entirely taken over the lives of students who have already started. 

“I don’t even necessarily go to the bathroom to do it,” an anonymous senior said. “I’m always doing it in the car, and I’ve formed habits in my routine for when I have to Juul. It’s mostly all the time when I’m not in school.” 

In an effort to decrease the number of students using e-cigarettes, Maryland updated the tobacco purchasing age to 21 starting Oct. 1, which effectively made it harder for underage people to get their fix. Even students who were 18 at the time of the law change were not grandfathered in, virtually ending students from buying their own pods. 

 “I think raising the tobacco purchasing age to 21 will be greatly beneficial,” State Student Member of the Board and Towson High student Noureen Badwi (’21)* said. “Due to the addictive properties in tobacco and nicotine, it only makes sense that the age is raised [because] most science supports it as a sensical age for youth to [begin to] be exposed to such substances.”  

Badwi is the chair of the Maryland Youth Advisory Council, which is currently spearheading a $35,000 statewide anti-vaping initiative because of the widespread issue. 

“What’s particularly worrisome about vaping and Juuling is not only the amount of students who have tried [it], but how quickly this epidemic has grown as well,” Badwi said. 

Last month, Juul Labs stopped manufacturing mint flavored pods, the favorite among younger consumers, leaving only menthol and tobacco flavors on the shelves. Students who previously bought mint pods have hit a brick wall — nicotine addictions no longer taste good.  

Or do they? Students have adopted a mindset of needing nicotine, no matter what. Once Juul is eventually abandoned, they’ll just adopt other means. 

“People my age can easily go into a 7-Eleven and still get pods, which is insane because they’re 16,” Livia Hagan (’22) said. “They’ll just move on to menthol or tobacco pods, or Alto [ecigarettes] because they’re cheaper with more flavors.” 

Vuse Alto ecigarettes are similar to Juul, except they cost only $10 for a battery with flavors including mint and mixed berry. Students are also investing in disposable vapes such as Puff Bars and Stigs, both of which come in a variety of fruity, palatable flavors with a lower price tag. 

While new laws are making strides to end the Juuling dilemma, very little will change unless the views of adults and students do as well. 

“When parents find out their children have a Juul, they just take it instead of educating them on why it’s badSo the kids just go buy another one,” SADD Club officer Ellie Dono (’21) said. “[They need to] warn children on the negative health risks as well as the debt [nicotine addictions] leave them in.” 

Despite efforts made to decrease nicotine habits among children under 21, the seed has already been planted. In order to weed out the problem, the consensus is that emphasis should be made on re-education and highlighting negative effects rather than on punishment. 

 

*The opinions expressed in this article are not reflective of the opinions and beliefs of the Maryland State Board of Education.