A hot topic of conversation at the school board meeting this last week was the rise in popularity of Juul smoking cartridges.
Juul smoking is a growing problem among young people nationwide to include the small schools and communities such as Wishek and Ashley.
Juul smoking is when a cartridge (or pod) is filled with liquid. “The liquid typically contains nicotine, flavorings, and other chemicals. When you puff on the mouthpiece of the device, it activates a heating element. This heats up the liquid in the pod and turns it into vapor.” -familydoctor.org
One Juul pod (cartridge) can last for 200 puffs and contains about 0.7ml of liquid. This liquid or nicotine in an entire pod is equal to a pack of 20 cigarettes, and 10 puffs equal 1 cigarette.
As the number of puffs depends on the person, so does the level of nicotine. However, a large minority of individuals take more than 140 puffs per day. For teachers and teens, this poses a problem.
When talking with Principal Christopher Doane of the Ashley School, his main concern was the teens’ health. “Whether those health issues come now or down the road, I honestly don’t think the kids realize the risks.”
Doane compared it to “20 years ago when cigarettes were a trend and cool to do. Kid’s think Juul smoking is mostly vaping water, and it isn’t, which they will find out later on when certain health conditions arise as they did from cigarettes. At present, however, there aren’t enough studies done to make those conditions well known.”
However, some studies and health concerns that have been done include the following:
- You have a chronic cough. Chemicals in vapes could irritate your throat. …
- You have chest pain or shortness of breath. Fluid could collect in your lungs and make breathing difficult or even impossible. …
- You vomit, feel nauseous, or have diarrhea. …
- You’re running a fever. …
- You feel tired.
A person is considered to be vaping too much if they show any of these signs.
Is vaping less harmful than smoking?
Although Juul smoking or vaping is less harmful than smoking, it is still not considered safe. Michael Blaha, M.D., M.P.H., director of clinical research at the Johns Hopkins Ciccarone Center for the Prevention of Heart Disease, explains, “E-cigarettes heat nicotine (extracted from tobacco), flavorings and other chemicals to create an aerosol that you inhale. Regular tobacco cigarettes contain 7,000 chemicals, many of which are toxic.
While we don’t know exactly what chemicals are in e-cigarettes, Blaha says, “there’s almost no doubt that they expose you to fewer toxic chemicals than traditional cigarettes.”
However, there has also been an outbreak of lung injuries and deaths associated with vaping. As of Jan. 21, 2020, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) confirmed 60 deaths in patients with e-cigarette, or vaping, product use associated lung injury (EVALI).”
Other health concerns in students and vaping include decreased oxygen supply to the brain each time a student vapes, which can negatively affect brain development, decrease concentration levels, and clear learning.
As vaping contains nicotine, it can also be detected in a student’s urine, blood, saliva, hair, and nails, showing how absorbent a person’s body reacts and the proven harmful effects on the lungs and cardiovascular health.
These are major health concerns in which students seem to be unaware.
According to certain teachers’ reports and the Truth Initiative research, and local Principals and teachers to include Principal Doane from Ashley and Superintendent Shawn Kuntz from Wishek, some of their students had no idea what they were vaping was nicotine or contained harmful chemicals. In fact, “nearly two-thirds of JUUL users aged 15-21 were not aware the product always contains nicotine.”
As health is the main concern, it is not the only concern. How the youth vaping epidemic is impacting teachers and other student is a growing problem. Here are some findings.
Teachers Report a Growing Awareness of Kids vaping in Schools
Many teachers recognized the pervasiveness of vaping in schools, which reflects recent research that found 27.5% of high school students currently vape. Almost three-quarters of teachers stated that vaping has become a bigger problem in their school over time.
One teacher said that she was shocked by how many students vape or had tried vaping, and that the disproportionately high number of vaping devices that had been confiscated is indicative of a major problem.
Another reported that “…students seem to do it like it’s second nature, like breathing.” Teachers also indicated that students often go to great lengths to conceal their devices, including hiding them in hoodies, hats, bras, and shoes.
Concern about vaping
When asked about a prominent health issue that their students face, a quarter of teachers independently mentioned vaping. Almost all teachers were very or extremely concerned about students vaping within the school building or on school grounds. Nearly half were “extremely concerned” when asked specifically about their own students vaping.
Where students vape
Teachers expressed concern about vaping in bathrooms and stairwells. And many teachers also reported disruptive instances of students vaping in the classroom.
Peer pressure from those who vape to those who don’t is real and frustrating. Teachers expressed concern that these students were “inundated by negative behavior just by being a student.”
As of right now, peer pressure and vaping in the classroom have not been an issue for Ashley or Wishek.
Consequences of vaping under age in school
The classroom is supposed to be a place of learning. So, many teachers and students are faced with the challenges and question of “what should we do?”
In Ashley, Principal Doane explained their process. “Number one, we are trying to make the kids aware of the health risks. This is done through different sources like health classes, information pamphlets about Juul cartridges and vaping the student brings home and motivational speakers. It’s nice when the kids can hear the information from an outside source. It seems to sink in a little more that way.”
If a student is caught vaping, then the Ashley school goes off of their policies. A parent is immediately called, there’s suspension involved depending on the severity, and if the student is an athlete, the school follows state protocol which is a 6-week suspension as well. Authorities are also called, and they handle anything outside of the school policies according to each case.
Laws about vaping under age
In 2019, Congress passed a bill that required all persons wanting to purchase vape products to be at least 21 years old, but kids are still getting their hands on the products.
The local school boards of Wishek and Ashley are taking vaping seriously and will continue the discussion and the action required to keep their students and teachers safe and well informed.
If you are a parent, please talk with your teens and the health concerns of vaping. It is serious, as are the consequences if your child gets caught.