Tahoma students and staff reflect on the issue of vaping on campus
By Kainoa Garo, Nethan Sivarapu and Ian Vu
Vaping is a problem that has prompted schools around the country to create various methods to limit student vaping. These methods include educating students and their families about the dangers of vaping.
With many Tahoma students and families expressing concern about vaping on campus, students and faculty have answered questions in order to gain a better understanding of the situation.
Several Summit Tahoma students have revealed they began vaping at young ages. A Tahoma student that was interviewed, who requested to go by the name José, said, “I started when I was 12 or 13 years old.”
Summit Public Schools: Tahoma is one of such schools that have been affected by the issue of vaping on campus. Over time, the issue of vaping in American high schools has become more apparent to the public.
One student, who requested to go by the name Jared, vaped twice every day from fourth grade until eighth grade. When asked why he started at such a young age, he responded, “Because I thought it was cool, and I wanted to be a cool guy, like the older kids.”
Another student, who requested to go by the name Jaquelyn, said, “I started because I was sad, and I liked the feeling of being high.” Jared and Jaquelyn are both Tahoma juniors who used to vape on campus but have quit.
Although Jared hasn’t touched a vape in eight months, and Jaquelyn hasn’t used in over a year, they still understand why students vape. Jared added, “[While vaping], I felt much better with myself.”
Many students in high school who vape seem to see a connection with their mental health or see it as a way to have fun. They look to vaping as a way to ease their struggles.
This feeling is the result of nicotine. Nicotine, according to drugabuse.gov, is “the primary reinforcing component of tobacco; it drives tobacco addiction. Hundreds of compounds are added to tobacco to enhance its flavor and the absorption of nicotine.”
The sensation that the students describe is not uncommon with vaping. As Psychology teacher Vaughan Wilkins explained, “[Nicotine] just takes over. It hijacks your reward centers. It hijacks the things that make you feel good.”
Mr. Wilkins also added, “Nicotine can hijack all your needs for food, water, belonging, friendship, all those things, and to say nope, you just need nicotine instead.”
Vaping leads to several potential health concerns. These health concerns include lung disease, heart disease, asthma, and lung cancer. It can raise blood pressure and spike adrenaline which can lead to heart attacks. Recent news shows an outbreak of lung injury linked to vaping, which is also known as EVALI. These symptoms can affect the student’s future as long term impacts on their body.
All of the students interviewed understood these consequences, though many stated that the benefits outweigh the risks.
Introduced to vaping by a friend, José said, “I thought, ‘This tastes pretty cool,’ and I just kept on doing it because it tasted good and made me feel good inside.” He said he was first drawn to vapes and e-cigarettes because of the various flavors that were offered.
Members of Tahoma staff have understood this issue and have accordingly viewed addressing vaping as a priority. With knowledge of the bathroom being a popular spot to vape, they tackle this problem by closing the boy’s bathroom during class times.
Tahoma Assistant Director Megan Toyama said, “It doesn’t feel good to have to tell you guys the bathrooms aren’t available, so we’re trying to find a better solution.”
Summit Tahoma also has opportunities to help students fight their addictions. Tahoma staff is currently working on different ways to solve the problem.
“We have a community counselor. We are also working on a school-wide presentation on the subject. We should also make it safe for more students to reach out for help,” Ms. Toyama explained. “Students need to understand the health effects. I think that education is really important.”
She also added, “I don’t think it’s right to kick a student out for vaping. But, if they do, it will affect the community. There is suspension involved. It’s an even bigger offense if the student is distributing to others.”
For students, vaping can be a difficult addiction to overcome. There are many opportunities today for underage kids to quit their addiction. Visiting the Tahoma school counselor can help. If this does not work, students can visit the resources at the bottom of this page.