Our View: E-cigarettes are not for children

Published 4:58 pm Monday, August 5, 2019

Smoking isn’t a habit we would encourage anybody to start. However, if you are an adult and within the legal age to do so, that is a choice consenting adults are allowed to make.

But when nicotine starts to fall into the hands of teenagers and children, that is something we can’t condone.

E-cigarettes are not new as vaping started to sweep the nation a few years, but there is an epidemic — across the country and in Chambers County — of students using vape devices that don’t look like cigarettes at all but more like flash drives.

Dr. Kelli Hodge, Chambers County School District superintendent, said this problem has gotten worse since a company named JUUL started making a version of an e-cigarette that looks like a flash drive.

“They have become very popular with kids,” Hodge said. “They are very easy to hide because they look like computer thumb drives.”

She’s right. It is hard to distinguish a JUUL device for a typical flash drive, and they are very popular with high school students.

In 2018, e-cigarette use among high school students rose by 78 percent, and more than 3.6 million middle and high school students used e-cigarettes — an increase of 1.5 million students in one year, according to a survey from the National Youth Tobacco Survey.

One of the biggest problems associated with JUUL devices is that one container is equal to one pack of cigarettes. That means students are getting addicted faster to nicotine than with regular cigarettes.

Moreover, we learned from training video to Chambers County faculty that students not only using the e-cigarettes in classes but are refilling the pods with additional juices are selling them other students.

Sgt. Chris Swickard, a school resource officer in Chesterton, Indiana, was the officer in the training video, and he said one person will bring it into the school, and five or six students will share it in the bathroom. It’s harder to detect as well because it’s not like regular cigarette smoke. There is no odor and the cloud of vapor will dissipate within seconds.

The other thing that should worry parents is that students are using other versions of e-cigarettes to smoke synthetic marijuana. They version of synthetic marijuana being used isn’t just typical street cannabis, but synthetic marijuana with a THC level of about 99.8 percent in most cases.

Hodge said these things are happening in Chambers County. If a student is caught with synthetic marijuana, it is an automatic suspension and if there is a second time, the student can be expelled. If they are caught with an e-cigarette, there are progressive punishments that could lead to a suspension.

However, Hodge doesn’t believe the punishments will change the behavior, and we agree with her. The parents, educators and even the students need to understand everything that goes along with possessing and using such devices.

Nicotine is a drug and a highly-addictive one. And it can harm adolescent brain development, which continues into the early to mid-20s. Also, the Center for Disease Control and Prevention reports that young people who use e-cigarettes may be more likely to smoke cigarettes in the future.

It’s incumbent on us as leaders, parents and educators to teach the younger generation about the harmful effects and substances we put in our bodies, and why it’s important for brain development to abstain from such habits until they are a legal age.