A nationwide epidemic

Erik Hultgren, News Writer

“Why do I vape?”

These are the words that an unnamed teenager repeats to himself as we began our interview. It was almost as if he had not considered them before, or perhaps he thought of the question as redundant. After all, as a senior at Michigan City High School, it is hard not to get the feeling that everyone vapes.

After a brief period of silence—one of contemplation rather than awkwardness— he confidently states “I just think it’s fun.”

When entering a bathroom at MCHS during any of the days many passing periods, it can be challenging not to notice the smell. And no, this statement is not in reference to the variety of odors most commonly associated with restrooms. This year the bathrooms of MCHS have smelled different.

If you are fortunate enough not to have to wade through a cloud of vapor on the way to the sink, you will surely be treated to one of the fragrances that they leave behind. From the traditional tobacco and menthol to the new and sweeter smelling mint and strawberry, teenagers have been vaping and using e-cigarettes in record amounts.

According to the National Institute on Drug Abuse, the incidence of high schoolers seniors vaping soared in 2018, reaching a new height of one in five. While this number may not seem ginormous, it represents a huge leap from the 11% reported in 2017.

Numbers like these show just how fast teenagers have taken up vaping, and officials are beginning to notice. On December 18, 2018, U.S. Surgeon General Jerome Adams declared youth vaping an “epidemic”.

Adams went on to say that “Now is the time to take action. We need to protect our young people from all tobacco products, including e-cigarettes.”

While e-cigarettes are not, in fact, tobacco products, Adams has a point. Almost all vaping devices and the cartridges that are used in them contain nicotine, which is a highly addictive drug.

“We have never seen use of any substance by America’s young people rise this rapidly,” said Health and Human Services Secretary Alex Azar. “This is an unprecedented challenge.”

It is an unprecedented challenge indeed, and while Michigan City High has made efforts to discourage the use of e-cigarettes, the administration is entering uncharted territory.

Earlier this school year, anti-vaping posters describing the multitude of potentially harmful chemicals in e-cigarettes were put up in MCHS bathrooms. Within a week those same posters had been torn down.

It is clear that vaping is here to stay. It has risen meteorically and shows few signs of slowing down. While both the government and Michigan City High have taken measures to eliminate its use among the youth, there is one problem:  “…it’s fun.”

Print Friendly, PDF & Email