Vaping has dire effects, some students ignore

Madeline Lee, News Editor

Going by many names, and most well known as vaping or electronic cigarettes (e-cigs), some students ignore the scientifically proven negative effects and partake in the activity daily. One student in particular, junior L.*, usually vapes on the way to school. However, she doesn’t stop once she gets to school. Going to the bathrooms during class to vape or sneaking a breath during passing period, L. vapes during school, as well as after school.

“I do it every day, even during school,” L. said. “It’s just satisfying, and you get buzzed.”

Vaping can have a satisfying neurological effect, but according to Dr. Anthony Scalzo, Professor of Pediatrics and Internal Medicine, and Director of Division of Toxicology at Saint Louis University, the way vapor is taken in affects bioreceptors in the brain, and therefore one of the most dangerous parts about vaping is that you don’t know how much you’re inhaling, and therefore how much nicotine you consume due to lack of biofeedback.

“I’m probably addicted,” L. said. “But I don’t really care.”

Addiction doesn’t happen the first time you pick up a cigarette or electronic cigarette.

“I wish I could tell kids that if you do it just once you are addicted,” Dr. Scalzo said. “The fact is that doesn’t happen.”

Nicotine is an incredibly addictive chemical, and the possibility of getting addicted increases with the amount of times you inhale nicotine.

“I don’t have a strong addiction to vape,” senior L.S. said. “Nicotine is addictive, but it’s not a strong addiction.”

Electronic cigarettes contain less carcinogens per dose than actual cigarettes, but can contain more nicotine than a cigarette. However, due to the fact that smokers aren’t sure how much they are consuming, they could take in more cancer causing chemicals than they would smoking. Despite this, students ignore the risk and choose to participate in the activity anyway.

“The feeling you get outweighs any health effects,” junior P. said. “I’ll do it the night before practice and the next day at practice your lungs feel like they have less room in them; but that doesn’t stop me.”

There are multiple reasons as to why students have begun vaping, including social pressure and, in at least one case, giving up a cigarette smoking habit.

“I started [vaping] to quit cigarettes,” L.S. said. “Now I just do it for personal benefit.”

The social atmosphere also influences vaping, and has become a part of some student’s culture- meeting up to vape, going to parties and vaping, and hotboxing cars with vapor.

“Half the people I know who vape wouldn’t do it without their friends knowing,” L.S. said. “It’s definitely a social thing.”

On campus, vaping is not allowed. If a student is caught by a staff or faculty member of the school, they are sent to their grade-level principal where students are typically given a three hour detention.

“The risks of e-cigarettes are addressed in health classes along with those of traditional cigarettes,” building principal Tim McCarthy said. “But we have not engaged in a school-wide campaign focused on e-cigarettes.”

Despite the majority of students at school being underaged, there are easily accessible ways to get vape pens, juuls (a nicotine-heavy vape pen), and vapor.

“I can go to St. Charles and buy any forms of nicotine, tobacco, juuls, vapes, whatever contains tobacco or nicotine,” L.S. said. “All it takes is a small drive.”

St. Louis County law mandates that the purchase of any and all tobacco products (including electronic cigarettes) require an I.D. proving at least 21 years of age. However, St. Charles law only requires that an individual be 18. It is also illegal to be in possession of any tobacco or vapor products if you are under 18.

Students who aren’t yet 18 know people who are, or borrow from a friend who has their own vape supplies.

“People have friends who work at vape shops or someone who looks old enough to just go in and buy one,” freshman K.B. said. “They don’t always card.”

Multiple vape shops were reached out to, none responded to comment.

“They never checked my I.D.,” junior D.S. said. “I bought juice, but I would use someone else’s pen.”

Not all of the effects of e-cigs are known due to difficulties in finding test subjects, according to Dr. Scalzo. Negative effects are known, ranging from breathing problems to neurological conditioning. One scarring effect of vaping is popcorn lung, which is permanent and irreversible lung cancer.

D.S. decided the risks outweighed any gain, and left the activity in the past when he became a varsity runner on the track team.

“You don’t really know all of the negative effects it could have while playing sports,” D.S. said. “I don’t vape out of season either. I all out stopped.”

Not all athletes share D.S.’s viewpoint of the negative effects vaping could have on sports, and the appeal of vaping sometimes outweighs any negatives. Part of the appeal is the various flavors that are offered in shops and online.

“I used to use apple [flavor],” L.S. said. “But now I use strawberry kiwi.”

The numerous flavors are meant to attract a larger, and younger, market. With flavors ranging from candy to obscure, the temptation to try at least one flavor is one that many students take.

“Unicorn puke is my favorite,” K.B. said. “I use a lot of different flavors.”

Mint and green apple are unofficially the flavors of choice for many students, with others such as mango filling out a large spectrum.

In addition to flavors, there are also different moderations that are available for vape pens that allow it to do different things.

“Some of these mods allow for a device that’s supposed to be used for e-cigarettes to also be used for marijuana,” Dr. Scalzo said. “It definitely makes it easier to use drugs such as hashish, [a psychoactive drug], and weed.”

Other moderations allow for a pen to have varying amounts of nicotine.

Some professionals believe that the threat isn’t in the moderations, but on the function of the pen itself.

“You’re taking a substance and heating it up into its most pure form” Dr. Scalzo said. “That is incredibly dangerous. Taking something so pure and putting it into your body– that can have serious consequences.”

*Names have been changed to protect the identity of individuals