New board policy restricts on-campus vaping

“E-cigarettes were on the market when I started teaching, but they weren’t as prevalent as they are today. I feel like, in just the four years that I have been teaching, more and more younger kids are getting their hands on vape pens and JUULs. It has almost skyrocketed.” – Anna Cole, health teacher

Samantha Johnson

With the expansion of e-cigarettes from manufacturers like JUUL, vapes have infiltrated school locker rooms, bathrooms and even classrooms. Because of their easy accessibility, as well as their low cost and small size, high school and middle school-aged students in BSSD and across the country have taken to buying, selling and trading vaporizer pens with nicotine-based oil.

To reduce and eliminate the use of these products, the school board set a policy to ban the use of e-cigarettes on campus at the beginning of the semester. Any student caught using these devices on campus will given an immediate office referral and 10 days of out of school suspension.

“(Before) we were typically using the tobacco policy, and that was probably not the appropriate policy for e-cigarettes. We know the long term effects of cigarettes, but we don’t know the long term effects of the ingredients in electronic smoking devices,” head principal Thomas Alderman said. “The last time a tobacco policy was written was well before these devices were around, so the board decided that they needed a new policy for them,” he added.

Sophomore Sarah Jackson admitted that, regardless of the new policy, she has still observed many of her classmates vaping on campus.

“I don’t know that I have seen a big difference in the amount of people vaping in school, but maybe that they are more afraid to do so,” Jackson said. “I don’t want to get caught up in that, I don’t want to take part of that and I definitely don’t want to make it seem that I’m taking part in it,” she added.

Health teacher Anna Cole has observed the rapid increase of e-cigarettes over the past few years in not just the high schools and the middle schools.

“E-cigarettes were on the market when I started teaching, but they weren’t as prevalent as they are today. I feel like, in just the four years that I have been teaching, more and more younger kids are getting their hands on vape pens and JUULs. It has almost skyrocketed,” Cole said.

Much like Cole, Alderman and other members of administration made note of the trend and growing popularity. He credited the success of e-cigarettes in teens to their smaller size and hideable shapes.

“Five to six years (ago), we started to see the first types of (e-cigarettes) but they were large. As they continued to get smaller, they became much more popular. There has been a dramatic increase now in the number of people using them than a few years ago,” Alderman said.

Hiding in locker rooms and bathrooms, students have used vape pens and other vaping devices  to smoke on campus at BSHS. It is not a huge secret; most students, whether they vape or not, know how other classmates have tried to hide their devices.

“I remember when I was in P.E. last semester that a lot of people would vape in the locker rooms,” sophomore Stella Marcella said. “Sometimes you just hear people talking about it and doing it while you’re just trying to use the bathroom, like two girls in the same stall,” she added.

Alongside the new e-cigarette policy, students in BSSD will continue to learn about the dangers of nicotine and corresponding chemicals in their health class.

“I teach (tobacco products) by saying, ‘Hey, back in the day, doctors used to recommend these and say that tobacco is great, and that cigarettes, cigars and pipes are all good.’ Then I talk about how we’re seeing the repercussions 30, 40, 50 years later and the problems that it has caused,” Cole said. “So I try to teach it like that because right now we have this big push for e-cigarettes and vape pens. What’s going to happen in 30, 40, 50 years? We don’t know.”

Because these the oil and cartridges of e-cigarettes are not regulated by the FDA, students and other smokers lack knowledge of their ingredients. Cole talked on the danger of unknowingly abusing these products regularly and heavily.

“That can be scary on its own; just knowing that anything, any chemicals or toxins can be in that cartridge or in that liquid. Kids wouldn’t know what’s inside because it’s not like it comes with an ingredient list, and if it did, there could be lies on it or (manufacturers) could be leaving out some of what it contains,” Cole said.

Because educators are unaware of their long-term effects, BSSD will continue to restrict e-cigarettes and teach their students about their potential. To learn more about the e-cigarette epidemic among youth, read here.