Vaping: Stop Doing It In School!

A student’s experience with vaping


Photo by Mike Mozart, Flickr CC

A sign disallowing use of cigarettes, including electronic cigarettes, in a public area. These signs have been popping up more and more as vaping grows.

The teacher stops the lesson for a 5 minute class break. Everyone jumps out of their seats and heads over to their friend’s desks, the water fountain, and the bathroom. The first individual to the bathroom pulls open the door and strides purposefully inside, only to find himself choking in a cloud of licorice-scented mist. There’s another student in the bathroom, and he’s vaping.

Vaping is a fairly new fad. It is essentially an “alternative” to smoking, where an individual inhales and exhales nicotine induced scented/flavored vapor (rather than smoke) produced by an electronic cigarette or other similar device. While vaping under the age of 18 is illegal and against school rules, it has presented itself as being a significant issue at our school currently. However, little has been done about it. One individual who has experienced the issue personally, John*, describes it in detail.

John’s experience began with a routine trip to the bathroom in the middle of the day.

“It was actually kind of an emergency, and I was going to be late to class if I didn’t hurry up, so I pretty much ran to the bathroom and threw open the door,” said John.

When he opened the door, he stepped into a humid cloud of strawberry scented vapor.

“It smelled sickly sweet and I realized it wasn’t smoke so much as it was vapor,” John said. “It felt wet and sticky on my face. It turned out that there was a guy in the back of the bathroom who was vaping.”

Upon this discovery, John chose to ignore the other boy and go on with his business. However, he had inhaled the vapor the other boy had permeated the room with.

It’s rude because you don’t consider how it affects the people around you.

— John

“He didn’t run out or anything,” John said. “I just used the bathroom, tried not to cough, washed my hands and ran out.”

However, the experience hadn’t quite ended for John. When he returned to class, the synthetic scent of strawberries had clung to his clothing. While seemingly harmless, recent studies conducted by Harvard, suggest that the vapor’s tendency to “cling” indeed poses a threat to individuals who inhale it, even if it was inhaled “second-hand.”

“When I got back to class my teacher asked me what ‘that smell’ was,” John said. “A bunch of my friends were talking about it smelling like some kind of fruit and laughing, saying it might be perfume or lotion. I didn’t say it out loud, but I realized that the gross vapor I had ran into earlier had literally stuck to my shirt and face.”

Inhalation of the scented vapor has been linked to a number of health problems, including a possibly fatal condition called bronchiolitis obliterans, (better known as “Popcorn Lungs”) where the airways in your lungs become inflamed from chemicals in the vapor, and are blocked as a result of the inflammation. And regardless of this fact, putting aside the potential health risks of inhaling vapor, it is considered a temporary annoyance to those who do not want to inhale it.

“I thought it was pretty rude,” John said. “If you’re going to skip class to do something stupid and illegal, at least do it outside or somewhere that’s ventilated. Nobody wants to smell vapor, even if it’s licorice or strawberry or (whatever) scent it is. It’s the same thing as cigarette smoke to me. Both smell bad and both feel bad to breathe in.

Taking time out of the school day, and therefore one’s classes to vape is detrimental in a number of ways. Significant class time full of important content is missed, and more to the point, vaping isn’t allowed at school anyway.

“There’s no good reason to take risks at a school’s discipline level and at a legal level just because you like to vape,” John said. “It’s rude because you don’t consider how it affects the people around you, and it’s not beneficial to you anyway because you’re choosing to skip class to do it.”

So what can students who vape do to prevent risk to themselves and others? It’s simple according to John.

“If you’re going to vape, do it elsewhere, and do it when you’re older,” John said. “Don’t make your addiction everyone else’s problem.”