The student news source of Garfield High School

The Garfield Messenger

The student news source of Garfield High School

The Garfield Messenger

The student news source of Garfield High School

The Garfield Messenger

Are There Solutions to Vaping? It’s Up in the Air.

Student and staff opinions about the current prevalence of vaping at Garfield.

Current situation at Garfield

It’s no secret that many Garfield students vape. English and AP Human Geography teacher Mr. Firman reported seeing “10 or more” students vaping together in the bathroom across his classroom, sometimes “to the extent where you could even see vape smoke coming out.” Firman, like all teachers, is a mandated reporter: it is “literally against [his] contract and against [his] job” to not report seeing students using age-restricted substances such as vapes. But if teachers report people who vape, they run the risk of damaging relationships with those who will resent them for being “told on.” 

Additionally, there’s no guarantee that students will receive any punishment or support once the school administration is aware of their addiction. Students in Ms. Felpo’s Ethnic Studies class interviewed Garfield administrators for a project about vaping. They found that a “first warning” is issued to kids reported by teachers, but there are no universal consequences beyond that; the information is usually just passed along to higher-ups and no changes are made. 

According to school nurse Samantha Kraft, the SPS district currently has a single addiction counselor available to students. Kraft disclosed that only two SPS students have been referred to the addiction counselor–a difficult feat since, to be referred, one has to be visibly under the influence of alcohol or drugs at school. 

The single addiction counselor, teachers/security monitoring the bathrooms, and slapping anti-vaping posters around aren’t enough. As Kraft put it, “all the signs in the world aren’t going to stop students from vaping,” and Firman acknowledged that staff bathroom monitoring will likely just “make [them] dig in [their] heels even further.” Students need consistent help and support to stop vaping, not just occasional punishment by Garfield. 

 

Student Perspectives

The Messenger interviewed anonymous students who currently vape or are in the process of quitting on their opinions and experiences with vaping. 

One interviewee’s experience with vaping began in sophomore year, when she started selling vapes to fellow students and friends. Selling quickly turned into the mindset of “just one hit,” which soon turned into “I’m not gonna be the one that [gets addicted]. Everyone else does, but I’m special.”

 Unfortunately, one hit led to a lasting addiction that she is unable to kick: she’s tried 10 times, even using an essential oil product that’s supposed to help, but hasn’t succeeded yet. She described how vaping changes her mood, making her “tired all day”, “very moody”, and without “the energy to do the things [she needs] to do.” The student estimated her current intake at around 100 hits per day. 

She believes that “kids need to be told about [the dangers of vaping] from a younger age” so teens will know what they’re doing going into it. Studies have revealed troubling links between vaping and symptoms of depression and anxiety. Research is only just beginning on the long-term effects of vaping, which include lung scarring and decreased impulse control.

Another addicted student has noticed physical changes common in those who vape. They described “horrible skin” and “sores on the inside of [their] mouth,” as well as not being able to breathe. 

“I think it’s very stupid and I wish I didn’t do it,” voiced another interviewee. But the reality is, when surrounded by friends who vape and school bathrooms packed full of addicted students, quitting isn’t easy. 

Some (brutally honest) advice to students starting to vape or thinking about it? “Don’t even try. Don’t do it. You’re not special.” 

 

A Complex Issue

For the Garfield administration, the vaping problem is proving to be a beast to fight. Across many interviews, the idea that the school should create designated smoking areas was brought up. During a vaping presentation in Ms. Felpo’s classroom, the administration shared that authorizing a designated smoking location simply isn’t possible because vaping is illegal for teens under 18-years-old. Additionally, normalizing the activity would likely encourage more students to participate. The possibility of vape detectors was explored as well, however, the district won’t allow the Garfield administration to install them. 

New school nurse Samantha Kraft shared that vaping is a generational issue. “[Students] are told that vaping is harmless and it’s not addictive.” Many teens often get their information from non-credible sources or peers who tell them it’s a better option than smoking cigarettes. She explained that a generation of smokers has just gone by showcasing the detrimental effects of smoking such as widespread lung cancer. But for vaping, “We just don’t know what exactly it does to your overall body on a long-term scale,” said Kraft. It’s known that E-cigarettes produce several dangerous chemicals known to cause lung and heart disease, but the field remains under-studied.

A problem that remains is many kids are aware of the impacts of vaping, but continue to do it. The school can provide resources to help and inform the students of the effects but,  “beyond that, you can’t really do anything,” said Nurse Kraft. 

Another Garfield student expressed that when it comes to changing vaping habits, “People are going to have to recognize for themselves that it makes them feel bad.” Realizing the feeling after vaping, and making the personal choice to seek help is up to the individual. Forcing the change won’t work. 

“Students respond better and make changes when they have a relationship,” emphasized Nurse Kraft. Having a liked and trusted adult for kids when they need help is critical, she explained. Someone who will punish or shame them for vaping isn’t going to help. 

 

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About the Contributor
Keegan Averill
Keegan Averill is a junior at Garfield Messenger who is passionate about being outside, urban design and having fun. In his free time he enjoys running, swimming, hiking, seeing friends and chilling with his dog Olive.

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