No Smoke, No Joke

Jessica West, Staff Writer

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Vaping has quickly become a new problem facing schools and young people, offering an alternative to smoking, but one that carries its own risks and dangers.

Vaping is the act of inhaling and exhaling the vapor produced by an electronic cigarette. E-cigarettes have become the new craze among teenagers, with approximately twenty-four percent of high school students in Massachusetts currently using them, according to the Youth Risk Behavior Survey (YRBS).

Aaron Cullity, an eighth-grader at Holbrook Middle High School, says, “I think that people think vaping is an alternative and healthy. Yes, it is an alternative, but it still can damage your body.” People think that it’s okay because “there is no nicotine in them,” but this is a misconception. Most e-cigarettes do contain nicotine, which can interfere with impulse control, mood, susceptibility to addiction, and overall brain development.

In Holbrook, you have to be 21 to buy e-cigarettes. You need to be 21 not only to purchase the actual mechanism but the e-liquids as well.  This age varies from town to town, as the statewide age to purchase these products is 18. This is ineffective because some people will drive with their friends to buy e-cigarettes in towns where the age requirement is lower.

Many people argue that e-cigarettes help adult smokers quit, but there is no real evidence to support this claim. According to YRBS, youth are actually nine times more likely to use e-cigarettes than adults in Massachusetts. The majority of these teenagers also use the devices before trying traditional tobacco products.

One student who vapes, who would like to remain anonymous, said; “Vaping, in a way, makes me feel free and less stressed about school.”  In fact, according to a study at the University of California – San Diego, people living with anxiety and depression are more than twice as likely to use e-cigarettes. Outside of personal anecdotes, there is no evidence to support the idea that vaping is an effective coping mechanism.

About forty-nine percent of high school students have admitted to trying e-cigarettes. More than eighty-five percent of e-cigarette users ages twelve to seventeen use flavored e-cigarettes and flavors are the leading reason for youth use. There are over eight-thousand flavors, so teens have a variety of choices which could also make them want to vape. Teens could also be the victims of peer pressure, seeing their friends and family use these products.

Holbrook’s Chapter of The 84 Movement and the Civics Club are planning a hearing with the Board of Health regarding flavor restrictions. These restrictions would limit flavored tobacco products to being sold in liquor stores, smoke shops, and other adult-only retailers. These students are hopeful that the policy will be passed.

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