As vaping options increase so do consequences, risks

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Not too long ago, vapes were seen by teens as easy access to tobacco and nicotine products because, even though they were illegal to minors, they were still easy enough to get. However, due to the national law passed in December 2019, the legal age to purchase any items with tobacco or used for tobacco has been raised to 21.

“As far as nicotine, I can’t just walk in and be like ‘let me get a pod of nic’ since the new law passed,” a female senior said.

 Although the legal age was raised, teens are still using vapes. Similar to candy in a candy store, there are many options when purchasing vapes. There are JUULS, which many students have seen and maybe even tried, and then there are carts or closed cartridges that can contain nicotine or THC (Tetrahydrocannabinol which is the chemical released in marijuana that gets the smoker high). 

“You can buy carts, illegally of course, from like a plug or drug dealer that you know,” a senior female said. 

Closed cartridge vapes can be sold by many different brands causing an increase in the market and buyers of vape communities. Purchasing these products comes with an increased health risk though. With the mixing of cartridge vendors, buyers do not ever truly know what is in the cart they are vaping.

“I got friends who smoke Buddah Bear and Dank carts but I don’t because it’s oil,” a male senior said. “You really don’t know what’s in the cart. People sell fake carts for like $40. That’s crazy.”

As vaping has become more prevalent and people buy products from all kinds of vendors, vaping-related illnesses have become more commonplace. 

Aerosols inhaled by vaping can contain dangerous chemicals which affect your lungs and breathing,” Marla Pollan, District Intervention Specialist, said. “Metals such as nickel, tin, and lead have been found in vapers’ lungs – from the vape pen itself, as it degrades with heat and use. E Cigs have only been on the market 10 years, so there have not been any long-term studies done on their effects. However, there have been many news articles in the past year about teenagers being hospitalized for lung problems, due to vaping.”

In addition to the health risks, students are also risking consequences at school. If a student is found with any illegal substances while on campus, such as THC oil for a vape they will be charged with a felony as well as possibly either being taken to a juvenile detention center or to Arlington PD jail. 

“If found to have THC wax or oils in their vape pen, then they are expelled – Student Code of Conduct p. 49-50, “Expulsions” – “Felony drug or alcohol related offense.” Marijuana wax, dabs, or oils have a very high percentage of THC, which makes possession or use of it a felony by Texas state law,” Pollan said.

If a student is not found with any illegal substances but still has vaping products on them, they will be sent to OCS and their guardian will be notified. Further consequences will be taken based on the student’s personal past behavior as noted by the Internal Discipline Plan, a plan created by the APs on how to deal with disciplinary issues.

For students who believe they can hide their vape related products the search dogs that occasionally come on campus are trained to smell these products.

“They will even find the chargers for the vape even when the vape is not on the student or in their bag,” Vana Shaw-Stines, assistant principal,  said. “They can detect vitamins and supplements. They are extremely thorough in their detection abilities.”

Talking about vaping can be challenging but, it is vital to focus on the dangers and consequences that come with it. 

“I’ve had students that didn’t know what they were vaping and it was an uncontrolled  substance [and the] students suffered major consequences in school,” Sarah Heroman, school nurse, said.

According to Heroman, even though they face consequences at school, felony charges, illness and possibly death, she has seen an increase in vaping usage with students in 9th-12th grades.

“Some students like the “cool” aspect of the big cloud of vapor,” Pollan said. “They see on-line videos of people blowing smoke tricks. Some think it’s safer than cigarettes, which they think are gross. Unfortunately, the cool, curious experiment can turn harmful and into an addiction.”