Instead of smoking cigarettes in the school bathroom like teenagers of the past did on many an occasion, the rise in teen vaping has led to an increase in the number of young people who take out their e-cigarettes and vape in the classroom. This, according to school officials across the United States, is a cause for concern for a number of reasons.
A report from the Associated Press took a look at the growing trend of teen vaping, which has since seen the smaller, slimmer, and trendier JUUL devices replace traditional “mods” as the vaping device of choice for young people. Because a JUUL is easier to carry around, it has become common for today’s high school students to vape in school bathrooms, or in many cases, actually use the device in the classroom, without having to step out.
“We’ve seen significant increases across the student body,” said Marshfield High School (Massachusetts) principal Robert Keuther.
“This is not something specific to one group of kids. It’s across all of my grades, nine to 12. It’s all students.”
Unlike cigarettes, which leave a strong odor that doesn’t go away easily, vaping devices don’t leave much of a trace. In most cases, vaping only leaves behind a sweet smell lingering in the air for a few seconds, which makes it easy for teen vapers to escape the watch of hall monitors, teachers, or other school officials. As the Associated Press noted, it isn’t unusual either for students to vape into their shirts so that they don’t get caught.
With the rising popularity of the JUUL, school officials, parents, lawmakers, and health authorities alike have sounded the alarm at what they feel is a disturbing and potentially unhealthy practice among America’s youth. On Tuesday, the FDA warned retail stores across the country about selling e-cigarettes to underage buyers, and also requested that the company behind the JUUL submit marketing and design literature, in order for the agency’s officials to determine if the product is really meant to appeal to the youth.
Although the JUUL is supposedly designed for adults who want to quit smoking cigarettes, with its maker’s website similarly set up with an “age gate” to prevent customers under 18 from purchasing the device, critics have claimed that the JUUL encourages teen vaping, as its cartridges come in fruit and pastry-themed flavors that traditionally appeal to young vapers. Furthermore, it has also been alleged that minors can easily work around the age restrictions on the JUUL website, MedPage Today wrote earlier this month.
“There’s a reason why it’s marketed that way,” said Keuther.
“We wish there was a way to curb that, because the industry is clearly targeting younger kids.”
According to MedPage Today, JUUL sales increased by over 600 percent in 2017, with the trendy, USB-compatible device now taking up over 50 percent of the market among brands sold in major retail stores.
It’s not only the FDA that has been launching reforms or policies to crack down on teen vaping. According to the Associated Press, Plainedge High School in New York became one of the first schools in the country to install bathroom sensors capable of recognizing vapor from e-cigarettes and sending alerts to school administrators. Other schools have tightened their policies on vaping, automatically suspending students who are caught using e-cigarettes. These include schools in the Chickamauga City district in Georgia, where students caught vaping can serve three-day suspensions if caught.
The latest Centers for Disease Control and Prevention statistics for suggest that the aforementioned reforms might be working, as teen vaping numbers were down for the first time since 2016. However, that hasn’t stopped U.S. school officials from using other tools to crack down on the practice, such as forums for parents and counseling for students caught vaping.