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The Latest Haze

The prevalence of vaping has significantly increased at Naperville Central. The Central Times investigates.

Art by Yoo Young Chun

Art by Yoo Young Chun

Ana Turner, Business Manager, Opinions Editor

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A small pile of black e-cigarettes occupies a spot on the corner of the desk of school resource officer Ann Quigley. Known as a “phix” or a “juul,” these small vaping devices have been confiscated from the hands of Central students.

Resembling a USB drive, the phix and juul use disposable pods to store the nicotine. For the phix, each pod contains approximately 1.5 mL of nicotine, the equivalent of two packs of cigarettes. The juul pods contain .7 mL, equal to one pack of cigarettes. 

This amount of nicotine makes the vape pens as or more addictive than traditional cigarettes. Consequently, students often have to vape at school to satisfy their addictions.

Vape usage among students at Central has increased significantly starting this year.

In just the first two months of school, there have been six vaping referrals, a substantial rise from past years. And these, of course, are only the students who got caught.

To compare, the 2016-17 school year had one documented vaping incident, and in the 2015-16 school year, there were two.

“I think it’s getting out of control,” Quigley said. “It’s almost a challenge to see where they can vape.”

Vaping usage has been on the rise amongst teenagers for some time. The Centers for Disease Prevention and Control (CDC) reported in April 2015 that adolescents participating in a form of vaping tripled to 2 million users in 2014 from 2013.

The Central Times has made an editorial decision to change the names of student sources in order to protect the identity of students who might otherwise receive disiplinary consequnces for talking to us. One student, Hazel Allen, began using her juul just three weeks ago.

“One day I found one laying around and I tried it and thought it was fun,” Allen said. “A few days later, my friend bought one for me because he was buying one for himself, and I gave the one [I was borrowing] back to the owner.”

District 203 administrators have been quick to respond to the newest technology.

Dean Mike Stock is a part of a committee that meets once a year to update district policy. In April, the committee met and vaping was introduced as a new term.

“We’ve had to update our language, [because the term] vape was not used [in old policies],” Stock said. “E-cigarette may be a part of the language that may be becoming obsolete. The language has to be updated, and we have just  recently done that because the times are changing.”

The Redbook’s policies reflect these changes as stated under prohibited student conduct. It states that “smoking, possession, use, sale, or distribution of tobacco products or nicotine delivery devices (e- cigarettes, vapor pens) in any form on school grounds or at any school-related activity” is prohibited.

Typically, students found vaping for the first time receive an in-school suspension as well as a referral, but if the vaping device contained a substance other than nicotine, such as THC, consequences would differ.

If THC was found in the e-liquid, the substance found inside the device, it would result in an in-school suspension as well as an out of school suspension because it moves into district policies regarding marijuana usage.

While students typically only deal with their deans in regards to vaping, if a second offense were to occur, they would most likely then be referred to the school resource officer.

In all instances of school-related vaping, the devices are confiscated. Although vaping is strictly prohibited on all school grounds, Naperville’s new ordinance regarding tobacco products makes it illegal for any high-school student to purchase tobacco in the city limits of Naperville.

This limitation hasn’t made obtaining vaping devices difficult or expensive. Allen didn’t have to spend much money.

“I’ve spent about $60 for the start kit and two additional pods,” she said. 

Another anonymous source, Tiffany Cooper, confirmed that acquiring vaping materials is fairly easy.

“There’s a specific store that doesn’t card,” Cooper said.

When dealing with incidents outside of school, there is a difference in punishment depending on the contents of the e-liquids. If the vapor were to contain e-liquids with no nicotine, no consequences would be enforced.

Consequences would only be implemented if the vapor were to contain THC or nicotine. If a vaping device containing nicotine is found being used by an underage student, the officer will write the local ordinance ticket.

“The law enforcement side of it would be a local ordinance ticket because that is how we handle all tobacco violations,” Quigley said.

A local ordinance is similar to a traffic ticket. If issued, the receiver would go to court and be placed on supervision. In court, the ticket could result in community service or a fine.

A different consequence would be for the case to be sent to a juvenile detective who would provide alternatives. 

“There [are] always alternatives,” Quigley said. “The whole juvenile justice system is based on trying to change behavior as opposed to punish behavior.”

The alternatives include taking an online tobacco test or being sent to different tobacco-related programs.

Although Cooper has not been caught vaping on school grounds, she has faced consequences for vaping at a public venue.

“I was at a concert and I was using [my phix] … [my friend and I] were just having a fun time and the security guards saw us and thought we were smoking weed… so they kicked me and my two friends out,” Cooper said.

There are also health consequences with the usage of vapor containing nicotine, some of which are not yet fully known.
According to a 2015 University of Southern California (USC) study, teenagers who use a type of e-cigarette are twice as likely to start smoking cigarettes.

“Our research does suggest that teens who use e-cigarettes for recreational purposes may be more likely to later advance to trying regular cigarettes and other smokable tobacco products,” said author Adam Leventhal of the USC Health, Emotion and Addiction Laboratory in a 2015 email to Scientific American.

This threat does not concern Allen.

“I never really crave [my juul] or think it’s distracting me from anything,” she said.

Although it hasn’t become an intrusive habit yet, for Allen it already may be affecting her body.

In the article “Concerns explode over new health risks of vaping” on sciencenewsforstudents.org, Lindsey Konkel reports on the findings of toxicologist Irfan Rahman.

“Students as young as 12 or 13 are now more likely to vape than to smoke,” wrote Konkel. “Many are under the impression that because e-cigs don’t contain tobacco, they pose little risk to health.”

Rahman’s team at the University of Rochester discovered the vapors can promote gum disease, cause “smoker’s cough” and form bloody sores in mouths and throats of vapers. The heat of the liquid vapor can also intensify these possible risks.

Risks and consequences aside, Allen admits that her new habit serves as a way of coping with her stress.

“It calms my nerves a lot,” she said.

 

Megan Troke contributed to this story.

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Naperville Central High School's award-winning newspaper.
The Latest Haze