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E-cigarette use among teens skyrocketing; student cites need for effective prevention methods

Smoking an e-cigarette, or vaping, lets you breathe in nicotine, flavorings, or other drugs as vapor, rather than smoke. Like any tobacco product, use of e-cigarettes is unsafe. According to the Centers for Disease Control, nicotine is highly addictive and can harm brain development, which continues until about age 25. Nicotine use, whether through smoking or vaping, can also lead to oral health issues, including gum recession, bacteria build-up, dry mouth, and tooth decay.  Early studies indicate that like smoking, vaping could increase the risk of oral cancers.

Although e-cigarettes come in many shapes and sizes, those shaped like USB flash drives are some of the most popular with teens, in part because many adults do not recognize them as e-cigarettes.

According to the 2018 National Youth Tobacco Survey, e-cigarette use by high school students increased 78% between 2017 and 2018. Recent media reports note that e-cigarette use among Maryland teens is rampant. Maryland Youth Advisory Council member Daniel O., a high school student, shares his perspectives on what both students and adults need to know about vaping:

A critical issue. An epidemic. A crisis. Whatever you want to call it, the problems associated with underage vaping have reached unacceptable proportions.

As many adults believe all vaping is being done in school bathrooms or locker rooms, school administrators have closed and locked the doors to these facilities.  However, this has done absolutely nothing to solve the problem. While placing a great strain on student bodies across the state as daily lives and routines are interrupted, these solutions just force the people vaping to relocate a couple feet away to a different room.

The primary issue at hand is one of ignorance, something that many students and teachers are guilty of.  For the students, due in large part to misleading advertising and obsession with trends and popularity, many are unaware of the true dangers of vaping. Students see it as the fun, cool, and borderline healthy alternative to smoking, with its many flavors and claims of being less harmful to your lungs. However, nicotine is still nicotine, no matter how much lipstick you put on that pig, and students must be made aware of the very real health risks vaping presents.

Many teachers are ignorant about vaping. I’ve heard stories of kids getting away with vaping in class, in front of teachers and faculty, by claiming what was in their hand was a USB drive. One day in history class, we spent 30 minutes explaining to a teacher what the concept of vaping was and how to spot kids doing it, as he frankly had no idea. Teachers must become the students, engage in discussions about vaping and the dangers of e-cigarette use, and how they can work together to prevent it using reliable, effective methods in their classrooms and schools.

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