The use of nicotine vaporizing devices, by students, has become a growing problem in
Electronic nicotine delivery devices have become hugely popular over the past couple years and bring with them a new set of challenges for school officials. The devices are marketed as an alternative to using harmful tobacco and also a method to help adults quit smoking.
Though there is research to support that vaporizing nicotine is healthier than regular tobacco use, there is also evidence that use of nicotine, in any form, by individuals under the age of twenty-five can negatively affect the development of their brains, according to the Center for Disease Control(CDC).
The brain isn't fully developed until a person reaches the age of around twenty-five.
According to the U.S. Surgeon General, the use of nicotine by people under the age of twenty-five increases the risk of developing mood disorders and permanent lowering of impulse control. Nicotine also changes the way connections of the nerve cells in the brain are formed, which can harm the parts of the brain that control attention and learning.
Students can get the devices relatively easy through online retailers that require no more than a customer’s click of a box agreeing that they are of legal age and a payment source which can be made by credit or debit card, prepaid debit card or even Paypal. Other students may have someone of legal age make a purchase for them at gas stations or vapor shops.
The signs of vapor device use are less detectable than that of tobacco. Vapor products produce odors of fruit, candy, baked goods, and many other smells depending on the nicotine liquid being used.
The Juul unit is the most popular amongst students and the students using them refer to their use as “Juuling.” D.A.R.E officer, Gary Carver explains why students use this particular brand saying, “I think it’s because [the Juuls] are so small and easily hidden.... and look sort of look like a USB drive.”
Some of the teachers are well aware of the problem and others aren't so familiar with it or what the devices look like.
Carver mentioned an instance where a student came into a classroom and told the teacher conducting the class that he needed to give another student his Juul back. The student then handed the device over to another student and left the classroom.
The teacher didn't think much of it until she heard several other students giggling and asked what was going on to which they replied that she had just gotten “punked,” -meaning she had just been deliberately fooled.
To someone who is not familiar with vaporizing products, the Juul’s don't appear to be anything more than a small black rectangle and can easily be mistaken for a USB flash drive.
After gathering stories like this and talking with students who admit to possibly being addicted, Carver plans to add nicotine vaporizing to the list of topics he discusses in the D.A.R.E program. Carver also plans to provide a parent education night where he, along with a variety of guest speakers, will present information and discuss a large list of concerns that parents may have about issues, such as this one, involving their children and teens.
Central Middle School assistant principal Greg Noble said that they’ve already done some adjustments to the school’s policy as it relates to vapor use. “It’s just become such a huge problem and really, really quickly.”
Noble said that next year, changes will be made to the student handbook including punishment guidelines for those caught in possession of a nicotine delivery device.
North County Middle School student resource officer, Brian Whitfield said the problem exists everywhere and at an increasing rate. “We’re seeing it more and more in the schools and significantly more than tobacco use actually,” Woodfield said. He said it’s not uncommonly to find students in possession of the Juuls and often finds empty Juul pods in trash cans.
Whitfield said they will be discussing the issue soon in the schools. “I’ve recently ordered educational material… and we intend to have some kind of class regarding [vapor use] for students and staff alike,” the SRO explained.
This is an issue in all of the area schools, and in schools nationwide, and one that’s growing at an alarming rate.
The past problem of students in possession of cigarettes or smoking in the bathrooms has now become an electronic problem of the same proportions. It brings new challenges and will force school staff members to adapt in efforts to deal with the issue going forward.