Smoke and mirrors

We must work together to end Juuling misconceptions

   In this day and age, few would argue that cigarettes aren’t dangerous. What was once considered a harmless pastime has been proven to cause irreparable damage to users’ health. But ask any teenager about the risks of vapes and Juuls, and they would likely respond with complete unconcern.

   According to a survey by Monitoring the Future in 2017, the use of e-cigarettes and vape pens is so commonplace that 11 percent of high school seniors reported vaping within 30 days of being asked. Furthermore, with the recent rise in popularity of the Juul, especially among teenagers, this percentage has increased drastically—so drastically that “Juuling” is now a commonly accepted verb.

   While most students are aware that they break the law and our school’s policy when vaping or Juuling on-campus, they often fail to remember the reason these rules were created. Electronic Nicotine Delivery Systems (ENDS) were designed with the purpose of helping people quit smoking cigarettes, but nowadays, the opposite is occuring. Many schools have seen a rising trend of e-cigs serving as a gateway drug to cigarettes and other tobacco products. According to the Monitoring the Future study, teenagers who used e-cigarettes were four times as likely to have smoked a cigarette as those who didn’t.

   Juuling has become more popular among teenagers than other drugs, like the standard cigarette, due to its apparent harmlessness, its appeal to younger customers and its discreteness. Equally as appealing is the fact that most adults have no idea what a Juul is, and because of this, many teenagers manage to Juul without facing immediate repercussions from parents, schools or even their own health.

   Upper School Principal and Associate Head of School Dennis Herron speaks to the difficulties he has seen when watching for signs of vaping and Juuling.

   “There are not that many visible signs that [students] have been vaping,” Herron said. “It is a harder issue to catch kids doing. On the other hand, there are many things that, in reality, are hard to catch.”

   Some schools have considered adding vaping detectors and bathroom monitors to catch students vaping, but solutions such as this one fail to address the true issue—teenagers’ belief that they are immune to the dangers of Juuling. This “immunity” is central to the Juuling problem, but to fix it, we have to change our outlook on the issue. We can’t treat this problem superficially; instead, we must find the root cause. To truly guarantee that our campus is drug-free, Trinity must do more than simply punish the few students who are caught.

   To its merit, Trinity has made strides in its handling of Juul-related cases. Offenders must occasionally check in with guidance counselors to ensure that they are making progress, but Trinity can and should take further steps to prevent addiction. It must move toward a more coherent policy that takes into account the nature of these drugs.

   Due to the addictive nature of Juuls, punishment alone cannot prevent students from returning to this behavior—this infraction must be treated differently. By coupling punishments with other interventionary methods, addicted students could receive the help that they need. Some schools, including one in the Boulder Valley School District of Colorado, have already taken these steps and have now started to require students caught vaping to receive substance-abuse treatment.

    However, it is futile to enact such policies without first fostering a more open dialogue about the harms of Juuls and similar devices. Instead of ignoring the issue, both teenagers and adults must be willing to work toward educating themselves about this topic.

   Teachers, who are often oblivious to the drug use occurring under their noses, must take action to be more knowledgeable about telltale Juuling signs. While Juuls are fairly easy to conceal, teachers can still be aware of devices that may look like flash drives, unidentified fruity smells and students’ frequent trips to the bathroom.

   Students, on the other hand, must hold themselves and their peers accountable for what they are putting into their bodies. There are many misconceptions about Juuling, and inhaling chemicals that could do unknown damage is, quite frankly, irresponsible.

   Simply being educated is not enough. There needs to be a dual effort from both parties to work together—teachers and administrators need to make themselves available for students to voice their questions or concerns, and students need to come forward if they have worries.

   Unlike a physical Juul, this issue cannot be concealed any longer. It is time to end the misconceptions about these drugs. Together, we must work to clear the haze.