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D.A.R.E. Betrayal: Nicotine

Nicotine: the worst thing infiltrating teenagers' lungs. Once a joke--now an addiction.

What is up with all these drugs?

What about vapes and carts make them so powerful over teenagers? Originally, vapes were meant to be a transition tool for cigarette smokers to stop smoking altogether. Recently however, they seem to be advertised exclusively to teenagers and young adults.

The reason why kids seem to love them so much is their convenience. Cigarettes have lots of prep: Getting a cigarette, going to an area you can smoke, and finishing the whole thing. It’s a ten minute process. Vapes however, you can hit once and go. Their vapor is much different to cigarette smoke, which means vaping inside is much more common. The smell doesn't linger, nor does it leave as much damage to the ceiling.

The smell is huge part and more importantly the taste. Cigarettes come in one flavor: Gross. Vapes can be an array of fruity flavors, ranging from cotton candy to blue raspberry. Getting a sweet taste along with a kick of nicotine, all for the price of ten seconds--it's what makes them so valued. Carts follow a similar theology, being able to get you high in a matter of hits. Skipping the process of smoking a joint, users can get high without the mess. Most students use these for their discretion--much easier to hide than a box of cigarettes or a loosely rolled joint that spills into your pocket.

So why do so many students vape?

Nicotine is a powerful drug, and a lot more people are addicted than you think.

Students seem to gravitate towards vaping, and one of the main reasons is stress. Nicotine sends signals to your brain that improve mood and behavior. This happens in a matter of seconds. Once you run out, your brain is starved of that good feeling, creating the vicious cycle of addiction during a stressful time, such as high school. That quick hit can help calm you down right before a test, or even just a class you don't like.

What do North Scott students think?

Here at North Scott, there are plenty of students who regularly vape. I asked a few to share their personal experiences with me. The first student, who we’ll call Blue Raspberry, currently vapes and smokes weed. Blue Raspberry started smoking weed their freshman year, then vaping later that same year. They are now a senior. I asked why they started smoking, and it was because their friends were vaping, so they decided to try it out. Blue Raspberry has vape juice that has 0.05% nicotine in it, so they would find it very easy to quit. Marijuana on the other hand may be a bit more difficult.

Because Blue Rasp smokes daily with both marijuana and nicotine, they are slightly concerned about the health risks. Similar to this, they don't find vaping less dangerous than cigarettes. I had a long talk with them about the differences between vaping and cigarettes.

Smoking cigarettes damages your lungs with tar. Yes, tar, created by the chemicals that melt and burn together (MAnderson). That’s where you get those black lung and pink lung comparisons.

Though it’s been advertised as such, vaping is not better for you. Every anti-vaping campaign has told you about popcorn lung, which, despite how annoying it is to hear about, is pretty bad for you. The original source of popcorn lung was actually from workers at a popcorn factory. They were inhaling a chemical called diacetyl in the food additive that simulates the butter flavor in microwave popcorn. Diacetyl is also commonly added in the liquid put into vapes, which is why the term has resurfaced lately. Inhaling diacetyl leads to inflammation and permanent scarring of the lungs (Johns Hopkins). There is currently no cure for popcorn lung.

Blue Raspberry’s family does not know that they vape, and, like many parents, they would not be happy to know. Friends, however, know and don't really mind. Blue Rasp has only been caught a few times, and only in school. This has happened with both their vape and cart. This particular user is an outlier, as they started smoking weed before they started vaping. Originally, I asked if vaping had led them to other drugs, but in this situation, weed has led to vaping.

My next interviewee is a fan of Kiwi Dragon Berry. They have actually quit vaping, so these answers will be from when they did. Kiwi started last summer, and they are now a senior. They started because all their friends were doing it, and they thought it might help with the stress. During this time, Kiwi would vape every day. Quitting was easy for them, since they quit while they were ahead. The reason for quitting was because of the health concerns, and how it would affect them when playing sports. Kiwi’s family did and still do not know, but friends did. Since that’s what got them started, Kiwi’s friends were okay with vaping.

Now Kiwi Dragon Berry is doing a lot better; vaping was a waste of time and money, and they didn't enjoy doing it, as it didn't actually help with any stress. Like anyone, quitting wasn’t easy, but after about the first week, things started to get a lot better. Just like Blue Raspberry, Kiwi doesn’t see vaping as safer than cigarettes.

The final student I interviewed is a Junior. Let’s call them Peach Ice, for their favorite flavor of course. They started in 8th grade, and still do today. Like most students, Peach smokes everyday and has tried to stop. Peach Ice is only a little worried about the health risks pertaining to vaping and views it as less dangerous than cigarettes. Unlike my other two interviews, Peach’s family does know, and their mother wants them to stop. Their friends also know but don't really care.

Forgot about D.A.R.E.

So it seems clear that quite a lot of students forgot about that wonderful D.A.R.E. contract we all signed in elementary. Lots of us have done some questionable things, but hey, teens will be teens. So what else have teens at North Scott done? My next article I'll be writing about underage drinking. I like talking to students here, so if you'd like to be a part of it, you can text me informally on Snapchat. These works are about the students of North Scott, so I won't be telling staff or students about what you tell me. This is for students, by students.

Contact me for an interview:

Snapchat: frankielikesfrogs

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