Why do kids vape? We didn’t know, so we asked them.

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Why do kids vape? We didn’t know, so we asked them.

Vaping product found in urinal in lower 4000 wing boys bathroom.

Vaping product found in urinal in lower 4000 wing boys bathroom.

Noah Mildner

Vaping product found in urinal in lower 4000 wing boys bathroom.

Noah Mildner

Noah Mildner

Vaping product found in urinal in lower 4000 wing boys bathroom.

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Sadly, vaping is a regular part of life for more and more teens, whether they are “hitting” it themselves or watching friends or classmates vape. High school students jokingly refer to the restroom as the “Juul Lounge” or “Juul Room” because of how common vaping is in school restrooms across the country. However, Juuls are much less prominent now in high school, as many users have turned to disposable e-cigarettes, specifically Stigs and Stiks.

Parents, school administrators and school districts are asking each other one major question: “Why?”

In an effort to get to the bottom of the vaping crisis, we decided to ask the people who would know best: the teens themselves.

“It’s like chewing your nails; it’s a good anxiety reliever,” an anonymous sophomore said. “It’s something … to do with your friends that kind of takes the pressure off. It gives you something to talk about.”

While there are different reasons for vaping, using vaping as an “emotional Band-Aid” was a prominent theme in our interviews.

“I only started in freshman year because I was around it, but I stopped,” an anonymous junior said. “[I] started again recently because I’m sad, and it takes the edge off. I never thought I’d be saying that, but like, here I am. I do plan on stopping or at least stop having my own nicotine.”

Some students start vaping later in high school, while other teens have been vaping for years.

“I’ve been vaping since ninth grade. I’m addicted, and it sucks. I’m trying to ease off of it, because you can’t just go cold turkey,” an anonymous senior said.

Although it is easy for adults to act like children who vape do not know the consequences, the fact is, they do.

“I quit because it’s terrible for you. I started because my sister did. I started in, like, seventh grade,” an anonymous sophomore said.

Not only does vaping take a toll on a student’s health but also on their wallet.

“When I was vaping, I was spending $160 a month on nicotine,” an anonymous junior said.

As co-anchors on the JHS student news, we wondered if the anti-vaping videos we regularly play on the morning announcements actually made a difference.

“The advertising is pretty good. I would try to relate more than tell them what’s bad about it,” an anonymous sophomore said. “Get them more actual stories of kids, that’s what actually gets me. Whenever they say ‘I almost died’, it kinda makes me uncomfortable.”

We were glad to hear we were making teen vapers mildly uncomfortable; however, others said it might not be so effective in actually helping to stop the epidemic.

“I think it’s pretty interesting because I’ve kinda laid back on [vaping] since I learned all that stuff,” an anonymous sophomore said.

However, the sophomore noted she had no plans to stop.

“It’s the mentality that it’s not gonna happen to me,” she said. “These kids have been vaping for like three years every day. I take breaks. I’ve been to the doctors, and they’ve never said anything about my lungs.”

Getting caught with an illegal substance on campus and dealing with the consequences are, in some cases, just as worrying to teen vapers as any potential health issues.

“Parents should be less aggressive about it. If they would try to actually help [rather] than just take it away and freak out, [it would be better],” an anonymous sophomore said. “The decision should be your family’s responsibility, not the government or the school.”

However, another anonymous sophomore gave us a different take.

“Whatever parents do, kids are gonna find a way to do it anyways,” she said.

While talking to these students have not given us a clear answer to the question of how to stop vaping, we feel their answers have shed some light on why kids vape: coping with stress, social interaction and addiction.

The teen vaping epidemic is something that is not going to go away overnight, but opening the dialog with teens and understanding the causes and consequences of vaping are steps in the right direction.

 

Francesco Beltrano assisted in the reporting for this article.