Cloud hangs over vaping devices

FDA cracks down on electronic cigarettes

Makayla Kyner, Staff Writer

The vape gets shoved into his backpack, and he feels a rush of adrenaline. He hasn’t even vaped yet. The rush of not getting caught almost acts as the hit itself.

“My freshman year I wasn’t really into it,” senior Steve Wragg* said. “But now, it’s all I do. I do it for the buzz. It’s such a rush. I love the feeling I get when the vapor fills my lungs. It’s also an adrenaline rush, especially at school. It’s like we have to try to not get caught, so it gives more of a rush.”

Like Wragg*, millions of high school students across the nation use vapes, Juul electronic cigarettes and other nicotine devices to enjoy the hand to mouth experience, the hit of smoke on the back of the throat and the exhale reward. Vaping also concerns parents because studies have yet to uncover the long-term effects.

On Tuesday, the Food and Drug Adminsistration announced a crackdown of underage use of vapes and other e-cigarettes, specifically Juul devices. The crackdown targets 7-Eleven locations, Shell gas stations, and Cumberland Farms convenience stores. The FDA has also called for Juul labs to hand over design documents, marketing and ingredients to see whether the company specifically targeted young people with its product design.

Teenagers also buy vapes online through authentic vape sites or sites such as Ebay and resell them to other teenagers at a higher price.

“And they’re expensive too,” Wragg* said. “My newest one cost me about $230. I get the money for it by buying and selling vapes more expensive than I bought them for. If I ever got caught with a vape, my parents would most likely kick me out.”

State law currently says “retailers and their employees cannot sell or give cigarettes, e-cigarettes or tobacco products or coupons for cigarettes, e-cigarettes or tobacco products to anyone under 18,” according to the Texas Comptroller of Public Accounts.

In a notice sent to retailers in January, the comptroller listed the rules relating to minors and their parents:

“• Minors cannot buy, use or possess cigarettes, e-cigarettes or tobacco products. The only exceptions are that a minor may possess cigarettes, e-cigarettes or tobacco in the presence of an adult parent, guardian or spouse, or in the presence of an employer if possession of the product is required in the performance of his or her duties as an employee.

“• Minors who violate the cigarette, e-cigarette and the tobacco law can be fined up to $250 and required to attend a cigarette, e-cigarette and tobacco awareness program or participate in a cigarette, e-cigarette or tobacco-related community service. Parents of a minor convicted of a violation may be required to attend the cigarette, e-cigarette and tobacco awareness program with their child.

“• A minor’s driver’s license can be suspended or denied if the minor is convicted of a violation of the cigarette, e-cigarette or tobacco law and does not attend a cigarette, e-cigarette or tobacco awareness program or perform a cigarette, e-cigarette or tobacco-related community service.”

School officials observed an increase in vape usage recently.

“I don’t have an exact number for you, but I can say there has been a sharp increase over previous years,” assistant principal Dean Hofer said.

Efforts to get students to stop vaping have risen with the number of students vaping.

“We’ve tried to heighten awareness of our teachers and parents to spot possible vaping incidents,” Hofer said. “We’ve locked certain restrooms where vaping had been taking place. We rely on Crime Stoppers tips from both adults and students to catch students in possession of vaping devices. The only true way to get students to stop is with parental supervision. It is illegal for a person under the age of 18 to buy or possess a vape device, and regardless of age, they are prohibited on campus.”

Schools try to combat vaping on campus by sentencing students to the Comal Discipline Center and other punishments based on the gravity of the situation.

“Typically students receive three days of in-school suspension and three days of out-of-school suspension,” Hofer said. “A recommendation for a 20 school-day placement is submitted. Then the student and their parents have what is called a due process hearing in front of (principal Michael) Wahl to determine whether that recommendation will be upheld. Obviously there are sometimes special circumstances in which that process can be amended.”

Other students recognize the issue, but teachers are not aware of what to look for. With up and coming vapes, hiding a vape is no longer a challenge. Slip it in a pocket and suddenly it appears to be a flash drive, such as Juul electronic devices.

“It scares me because I am watching my friends get addicted off of what is supposed to be a harmless vape,” junior Lola Craig* said. “Three nic turns into six nic, which turns into 12 nic, and so on until it reaches 50 nic, and suddenly what used to be harmless is now causing an addiction.”


*Students names have been changed.

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