Juuling Is Not So Cool; The vaping epidemic hits our community

By CBCS Students: Caroline Bryndal, Nola Hadley, Havalin Haskell, Samantha Lakoski & Nevada Scales

A sophomore brings vertical hands to his mouth, as though in silent prayer, before lowering his head to breath into the top of his hoodie. A thin plume of smoke, smelling sickeningly sweet like cough medicine, overflows and vanishes within seconds. By the skatepark local kids lean against the boards of alleyway buildings, waiting for an adrenaline rush that leaves behind a hollow and ephemeral longing for more.

Vaping nicotine has quickly become an epidemic among teens across the nation, and use in our community is no exception. According to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, Colorado has the highest use rating of the 37 states surveyed, and twice as high as the national average. 58.4% of Colorado high schoolers reported having used the drug according to the 2017 Healthy Kids Colorado Survey data. Here in the RE1J School District, 43.4% of students reported having tried E-cigarettes, with 29.4% reporting having used them in the last 30 days. The prevalence has reached a sad, comedic level, with a recent sign on someone’s locker featuring a bathroom stall with the message “Why is there a toilet in the Juul room?”

The term “perception of harm” is often used to explain why e-cigarettes are so popular among teens, as many believe that vaping is safer than cigarettes. After all, this is the false selling point handed down to us from E-cigarette companies, which unfairly target our age group with products, designs, and flavors that appeal to youth. Tens of millions of dollars are spent to hook our generation and are responsible for undoing decades of progress in helping prevent kids from taking up smoking. These strategies are working because only half of the surveyed teens in Colorado thought that vaping was risky at all, and 66% believed that there was no nicotine in the vapor.

So what is vaping exactly? Vape products, or E-cigarettes deliver nicotine through a liquid that is heated into vapor and inhaled, cutting out the cancer-causing tar of combustible cigarettes. However, vaping liquids contain additives such as propylene glycol, that can form carcinogenic compounds when heated, diacetyl, the chemical blamed for causing “popcorn lung,” and formaldehyde, along with at least 60 different chemical compounds, none of which have been studied to determine long term effects. There are many E-cigarette brands, but by far the most popular and widely sold is Juul, which has the highest nicotine concentration. One Juul pod contains nicotine levels equivalent to one pack of cigarettes and has two times more nicotine than most other e-cigarettes.

Vaping affects the human body in ways we are only beginning to understand. According to the National Center for Health Research, side effects include increased heart rate, increased blood pressure, chronic bronchitis, insulin resistance, and lung disease. While these may seem dangerous on their own, effects are much more dramatic in teens. Teens whom vape are shown to have slowed development of brain and lungs, decreased activity in the prefrontal cortex, increased impulsivity and shown a higher sensitivity to other drugs. One of the most shocking facts is that smokeless tobacco has been shown to be more addictive than alcohol or anti-anxiety medication, and almost as addictive as cocaine.

We are not surprised that students vape at our school because we know how easy it would be to hide these products. Many are willing to take the risk because they are addicted and can’t go seven hours without nicotine intake. Vape companies are making it easier and easier to conceal use with sleek, high tech devices designed to hide vaping in everyday environments. The devices, which can be purchased from over 460 different brands, come in all forms including pens, pipes, cigars and most commonly, devices that are made to resemble USB flash drives which charge in USB ports. A common refrain heard in the halls is, “Anyone have a portable charger? I need to charge my vape pen…”

 Increasingly popular are accessories like bracelets with a built-in vape pen, and a variety of clothing and apparel options, including hoodies featuring vape mouthpieces in the hoodie strings for “vape ready” wear. At the end of the day, the pens themselves are small enough that they can be used without drawing too much attention.

Currently, the FDA restricts the sale of E-cigarettes to individuals under the age of 18. These regulations also prohibit vaping on school grounds and in any non-smoking area, but otherwise, vape pens can be used in any other public area.

In trying to tackle the issue, Crested Butte Community School’s main focus centers on education with the hope that bringing facts to light will help mitigate the situation and curb use. When asked if vaping at our school was different from other schools, Bob Piccaro, Assistant Principal at CBCS said, “It’s an epidemic among teens in America, and we’re not immune here.”

 In conversation with students at CBCS, an anonymous user felt there was little risk, “It’s just nicotine, like, it’s not even that bad.” The lack of education regarding the use of E-cigarette nicotine has created a cover for a physical addiction that no teen should have to handle.

When asked where they saw other students vaping the most, an anonymous CBCS student reported “It’s in locker rooms, on the bus, sometimes even in class. It just flies straight by the teachers. My friends can’t stop talking about it. They’re always buying stuff, or talking about how they need to purchase more.”

Currently, if a student is caught vaping at CBCS, the school discipline policy requires a meeting with the student’s parents where they are notified, often for the first time, of their child’s use. Piccaro referred to this an “awakening of reality” as most parents have no knowledge of their child’s use. Though students vaping might deny addiction around peers when caught, “All have admitted their inability to control the urge, or quit,” he said.

Employees at True Value, a local retailer of Juul pods and devices provided some insight on sales and use in our community. According to employees Mikey Strauch and Nick Hill, the biggest crowd buying Juul products is significantly younger than average tobacco consumer, with a majority barely 18, and few over 30. The most popular flavors sold are mint and mango. True Value sees slightly more male Juul customers than female, though they say it’s nearly even. The habit isn’t cheap — a Juul device costs roughly $34.99, plus a starter pack of four pods, $15.99. The cost of continually replenishing pods is expensive, even for adults, let alone teens with limited income.

Ever since Juul arrived on the store’s shelves about a year ago, the number of young-looking customers buying age-restricted products has gone way up. Anyone buying Juul who does not clearly appear to be 18 or older must provide I.D; that is the only current regulation to the knowledge of the employees mentioned. However, they informed us that once stores (excluding establishments which are off limits for minors to enter) run out of their current stocks of fruit-flavored vape pods, they will not be able to order more due to the FDA’s recent initiative to eliminate flavors arguably aimed at teens. All flavors will continue to be sold on the company’s website.

Piccaro believes that the community as a whole needs to take a stance and action on this issue. In 2012, the city of Gunnison passed an ordinance which made possession of tobacco products for individuals under age 18 a petty offense, punishable by a mandatory court appearance, education and potential fine. In some Colorado towns like Aspen, city officials have changed the legal age to buy nicotine products from 18 to 21 years old. Another solution could be to put a limit on the number of pods sold at once, to discourage the illegal resale or sharing of pods with minors.

Piccaro also made the point, “We need to change the social norm of negative peer pressure to positive peer pressure. This way instead of teens encouraging their peers to try vaping, they motivate them to stop. The more we educate our youth about the negatives of this, then maybe we can start to sway some, and once we start swaying some, then peer pressure can help take over.”

The True Value staff voiced their concern around people “developing an addiction without truly knowing… how much of a drug it is,” to quote Strauch and Hill. A large part of today’s young generation is disgusted by the thought of people smoking a whole pack of cigarettes in a day, but are much less offended by vaping. “I don’t think people are fully aware of what they’re ingesting or what they’re doing to their body. I understand both sides. People see it’s targeted to kids unfairly, but I also understand the side of the convenience and the novelty,” said Hill. During the interview, a young woman, just over age 18, and a recent graduate of CBCS bought a pack of Juul pods.

High school is a time for new beginnings and looking ahead. It’s difficult to watch our peers undermine all the hard work and preparation for the future by using something that is so detrimental to their health. We want to support each other in becoming the best leaders of tomorrow. In the meantime, we need the leaders of today to step up and help our community kick this dangerous habit. For more information on local efforts, or support in quitting, contact the Gunnison County Substance Abuse Prevention Project, 970 642-7396.

This article was made possible by the CBCS Writer’s Collective, a student creative writing group led by Brooke MacMillan through the CBCS Enrichment Program and Center for the Arts, Literary Arts Department.

https://truthinitiative.org/news/e-cigarettes-facts-stats-and-regulations

Edney, Anna. “FDA Threatens to Pull E-Cigarettes to Fight the Rise of Kids Vaping.”

Bloomberg. 12 September 2018. Web. 19 December 2018.

Becker, Rachel. “A Spike in Underage Vaping Prompts FDA to Restrict Flavored E-Cigarette

Products.” 15 November 2018. Web. 19 December 2018.

Choice Pass Events

 

CBMR will be offering a complimentary day for Choice Pass! Choice Pass holders can pick up a complimentary all-day Adventure Ticket valid Saturday, August 24th (includes bike park and adventure park, no zip line) at the Crested Butte Rental and Demo Center by presenting their winter Choice Pass Ski Pass or Choice Pass ID card. A parent or guardian must be on-site to sign the summer waiver. Parent and family bike haul tickets are also available for $20 at the Rental and Demo Center (adventure park not included in discounted parent ticket).  A big thank you to CBMR for this awesome opportunity!

Crested Butte Mountain Resort has confirmed the following statement: The Choice Pass will be offered for the 2019/20 season. Additional details will be announced in Fall 2019. We advise those who plan to purchase the Choice Pass to purchase when the product becomes available rather than put $49 down toward a Teen Pass.

Questions about Choice Pass? Emily Mirza can answer them!

p: 970-641-7612

e: emirza@gunnisoncounty.org

 

 

More Vaping Information

We know that youth vaping is quickly on the rise and understand there is a lot of misinformation. Choice Pass would like to share some resources about vaping with you and encourage you to have conversations at home with your child to provide them with accurate education and information. Here are some links to resources:

https://www.tobaccofreeco.org/product-facts/vaping-ecigs/

https://www.tobaccofreeco.org/know-the-facts/vaping-faqs/

Here are a few short videos:

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=haqi4xvjvKo&feature=youtu.be

https://youtu.be/MOp1yWYEk80

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=9dZS_Rniak0

Please, call or email with any questions.

Emily Mirza, Choice Pass, 200 E. Virginia Ave, Gunnison Co 81230

p: 970-641-7612

e: emirza@gunnisoncounty.org

Donate to the Choice Pass Component Fund here http://cfgv.org/choicepass/

Eight Facts About E‐Cigarettes and Vaping that Every Parent Should Know

  1. E‐cigarettes, available in the US since around 2007, are battery powered devices that provide the user with an aerosolized dosage of nicotine, flavor, and other chemicals. Other common names for an e‐cigarette include vaporizer, vape pen, electronic hookah, hookah pen and JUUL.
  2. Aside from some state and local laws that restrict access to minors, e‐cigarettes are currently unregulated from a health and safety standpoint. Due to their unregulated status, youth are again being inundated with advertising for a tobacco‐linked product. The FDA regulates traditional tobacco products like cigarettes, cigars and smokeless tobacco, and is currently in the rule making phase of a process to regulate e‐cigarettes as tobacco products.
  3. E‐cigarettes are included in most school districts’ Tobacco Free Schools policy, which means that use of electronic vaping devices is not allowed on school property or at school sponsored events.
  4. The amount of nicotine in refillable bottles containing e‐liquid juice doesn’t always match what it says on the label, particularly if the label says “nicotine‐free.” The alarming increase of nicotine poisonings among children under 5 years of age highlights another significant risk of e-cigarette use, an increase that is due in part to increased use of e‐cigarettes by youth and the increasingly popular refillable tank devices.
  5. Nicotine, aside from being extremely addictive, poses a significant risk to human health. Nicotine is linked to heart disease, immune suppression, and changes to the structure of the adolescent brain, which may explain why early exposure to smoking is significantly likely to lead to a lifelong struggle with nicotine addiction.
  6. Testing has shown that e‐juice contains some of the same cancer causing chemicals that cigarettes do. Additionally, the vapor from e‐cigarettes contains chemicals that can damage lung cells, cause respiratory issues, and are linked to chronic lung disease. Because e‐cigarettes are so new, their long term impact on human health is unknown.
  7. E‐cigarettes are incredibly attractive to youth and stand poised to undo successes made in the reduction of youth tobacco use. Teen smoking rates continue to drop, which is great news. At the same time, e‐cigarettes use among youth is a rapidly growing problem. While e‐cigarettes may be a way for long‐time adult smokers to quit, a claim that is still unproven, youth don’t use cigarettes as cessation devices. In fact, many youth who would never use cigarettes try out e-cigarettes because they are curious about them and don’t see them as harmful, and then continue to use them.
  8. Research suggests that even if youth have never smoked before trying e‐cigarettes, they are more likely to try cigarettes in the future. A recent longitudinal study of teens in L.A. found that teens who try e‐cigarettes are significantly more likely to try cigarettes or other tobacco products within a year of initiating use and become long‐term smokers. A 2012 study of young adults in Colorado (18‐24) who smoke found that 54% also used e‐cigarettes.

Find more information about “JUULing” here:  http://www.gunnisoncounty.org/863/JUUL