Teenagers vaping

The number of teenagers using e-cigarettes has skyrocketed in recent years, and the problem has reached Hutchinson Middle School and Hutchinson High School.

Vaping, or juuling as some teenagers refer to it, has become a national epidemic.

Vaping through an e-cigarette device has been around for about 10 years, but the use by teenagers has skyrocketed in recent years. There are an estimated 3 million high school and middle school students currently vaping in the United States. A portion of those 3 million attend the Hutchinson Middle School and the Hutchinson High School.

Doctors and other health professionals generally agree that while vaping may be safer than smoking a traditional cigarette, the nicotine (a toxic chemical) and other harmful chemicals like heavy metals contained in vaping are dangerous and unhealthy for teenagers. The long-term effects of vaping are unknown at this time.

The following is a list of things parents should know about vaping:

  • Vaping is the act of inhaling a vapor produced by an e-cigarette device and exhaled as a fine vapor mist, which dissipates quickly and is mostly unrecognizable after a very short period of time. Unlike traditional cigarettes, your child could be vaping in his or her bedroom and you would not be able to smell it.
  • Vaping can be just as addictive as traditional tobacco products due to the addictive characteristics of nicotine.
  • Vape cartridges comes in a variety of flavors and chemical mixtures. There are flavors like bubble gum, mango, apple pie and watermelon. Chemical mixtures may include different levels of nicotine or marijuana. For example, you can purchase different levels of nicotine ranging from 3 milligrams to 50 milligrams in a refill cartridge.
  • According to research from the Journal of the American Medical Association, teenagers who vape are up to five times more likely to start smoking traditional cigarettes than teenagers who do not vape.
  • E-cigarette devices come in a variety of models, shapes and sizes. Some have been manufactured to look like other common electronic devices such as a flash drive for a computer, a pen or an ipod music device. These devices are very hard to identify if you do not examine them closely. This is one reason it is so difficult to identify and address the issue with kids.
  • E-cigarettes and vape cartridges are very easy for teenagers to purchase.
  • According to the FDA, tobacco use is the single largest preventable cause of death in the United States.

Hutchinson Public Schools recognizes and treats e-cigarette possession and use as we would traditional tobacco products and act accordingly.

I liken this epidemic to teenage cigarette smoking back in the '50s and '60s. Teenagers at that time thought cigarette smoking was harmless. Both of my parents smoked as teenagers and adults, and I recall them talking about when they started to smoke and how unaware of the health risks they were taking. There was little to no regulation, nobody seem to care about teenagers purchasing cigarettes, they were easy to get and there was little to no law enforcement back then trying to curb the use. Of course, both of my parents regretted ever starting to smoke. The commonalities between that era with cigarettes and present day vaping seem eerily similar.

Let’s work together as a community to end teenage vaping in Hutchinson for the sake of our children’s long term health. Our children will thank us later!

— Daron VanderHeiden is superintendent of Hutchinson Public Schools. You, Your Kids & School is a twice-a-month column from School District 423.

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