Where there is smoke there is vaping (usually)

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Michelle Sherman

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By Reilly Leconte, Dartmouth High School

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All throughout the day, administrators like Principal Ross Thibault and Dean Michael Martin make routine spot checks throughout the building. They patrol the halls, peer into classrooms, and pop into the bathrooms like clockwork. They fear that the remote corners of DHS may be home to something sinister. The main purpose of said spot checks is simple: to bust students vaping.

Well, bust isn’t necessarily the right word.

According to Mr. Thibault, spot checks around the building are “standard operating procedure,” and have been for years. Recently, with the accessibility and appeal of vape products like the Juul, vaping is one of the main things teachers and administrators are on the lookout for among students.

The most popular vaping device on the market for teens is the Juul, a slim, almost too-easy-to-use device that fits in the palm of your hand. Juul pods come in a variety of flavors, including cucumber, mango, and mint, and contain the amount of nicotine in roughly two packs of cigarettes.

Juul has recently come under fire for allegedly marketing its products towards minors. So far, the company has been making strides to clean up its act. As of early November, Juul Labs has deleted a multitude of photos from its Instagram account and has scaled back its usage of other social media platforms. In addition, the company has ceased the sale of flavored pods, in order to become less appealing to teens and youngsters who crave the sweet taste of fruit and creme.

Even Juul’s website has undergone some serious changes. Before being able to access juul.com, users are faced with two options: saying that they’re under 21 or saying that they’re over 21. Anyone claiming to be over the age of 21 must verify their age. Meanwhile, any prospective user that claims to be under the age of 21 isn’t allowed to visit juul.com, but instead, is directed to a government website “Smoke-Free Teen,” a public service announcement webpage dedicated to warning teenagers about the dangers of smoking.

Vaping has received mixed reviews among students. Freshman Colin Zhu said that Juuling is “a double edged sword. I’d rather have kids Juuling than smoking cigarettes, but I’d rather have kids not using nicotine than Juuling.”

On the other hand, administrators have no tolerance for drug usage on campus.

“Vaping is so new,” said Associate Principal Rachel Chavier. “There are some side effects that we’re not aware of yet.”

On one hand, that is correct. Long term effects as a result of vaping have yet to be extensively researched. On the other hand, there is at least one serious disease that can result from vaping.

According to the American Lung Association, diacetyl, a chemical found in most vapes, can cause damage to your airways and cause popcorn lung, a very serious disease which causes coughing and shortness of breath. If left untreated, it can be fatal.

As of right now, the school has no official policies against vaping, other than the fact that it is prohibited on school grounds.

If a student is caught vaping in the bathrooms, it is “dealt with as a disciplinary matter,” according to Thibault. If a student is committing their first offense, their parents will be notified. If a student is a repeat offender, then their punishments will worsen, from after sessions all the way up to suspension.

Mr. Martin was quick to assure that punishment is not the first priority, but rather informing about the dangers of smoking.

When asked about the possibility of vaping detectors being implemented in the bathrooms, Mr. Thibault says that the school will do “anything to keep the students safe.”

Some students don’t feel as if the administration is doing enough. Junior Natalya Chedid is unimpressed with the effort coming from DHS staff. “[The administration] is not handling it,” says Chedid. “I find it ridiculous that even middle schoolers are vaping now.”

Senior Normandy Beery feels similarly. “They’re not handling anything,” added Beery.

For the time being, vaping is new territory. Students are encouraged to speak to the administration if they have any ideas on how to monitor vaping at school. Mr. Thibault reminds students that they can do something to help. “If there are students that have ideas to help us police this,” he said, “then come see us.”

This story was originally published on The Spectrum on January 22, 2019.