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Vape culture impacts Shasta and campuses nationwide

By Ethaniel Reyes and Albert Chang-Yoo

Staff Editors

At Summit Shasta, the fact that many students vape isn’t exactly breaking news. In the bathrooms, there is often a faint wisp of flavored vapor, leftover from a Juul in use. Shasta is located just 10 miles from the headquarters of JUUL Labs Inc., the company at the epicenter of the rise of teenage vaping. A Juul is a device that looks similar to a USB-stick but is in fact an e-cigarette that uses small replaceable pods

Both at Shasta and across high schools in America, a new concern is making headlines: The rising use of vaping among teenagers is causing many to fear the ramifications of health going into the future. 

Vaping at Shasta

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The boys bathroom at Summit Shasta.  PHOTO CREDIT: Albert Chang-Yoo

At the Summit Shasta campus, while the problems might not seem so serious, there are definite examples of active vape culture within our learning spaces. One student, a junior (who, because he has vaped before, will remain anonymous), talked about vaping on campus. “It’s pretty big,” he said, “everyone wants to know what it’s like to smoke.” 

Juuls are appealing, he said, because “it’s like a kids’ version of a cigarette […] you can just recharge it and put in a new pod.” Peer pressure is definitely a factor because, according to this student, you don’t want people to think you’re a “wuss.”

On a personal note, this student recently decided to quit vaping. After going for a period in which he Juuled quite often, he came to the realization that “any type of smoking isn’t good.” As for other students who are thinking about vaping, he said, “Don’t do it because you will be hooked for life.”

Another student, Shasta junior Jedediah Lupe, talked about some of the different aspects of how his peers participate in the realm of vape culture.

According to him, he believes people participate simply for the sake of it or just get peer pressured into doing it; he looks down upon it, bringing up the fact that there are a lot of chemicals in vapes that could ”take away your brain cells”.

“I’ll say people do it every day… just for the fun of it, or just to be cool in front of their friends because they’re doing it,” he said. It doesn’t make any sense to him that people are doing it and how people think it’s cool, simply calling it downright “dumb” in a straightforward manner.

And the ramifications to both smoking and vaping also don’t appeal to him as well. He revealed that his friends “act like little kids” whenever they smoke, seeming like they are “always forgetting things, always hungry, always wanting to do something”.

“I kinda [have] respect for those who don’t smoke,” he said. He honestly believes that vaping and smoking habits should be stopped as soon as possible for health’s sake. “Don’t do it. Smoking will take over your life. Ruin your lungs, probably get lung cancer in the future.”

In the national spotlight

Recently, President Trump entered the debate over vaping. During a press conference this month, he commented, “We have a problem in our country… It’s a problem nobody really thought about too much a few years ago, and it’s called ‘vaping’”.

The Trump administration is moving to ban the sale of flavored pods, pointing to the rise in teen use and the recent cases of vaping-related illnesses (including seven deaths). It’s part of growing concern over teen vaping. Vaping among teenagers jumped 78% from 2017 to 2018. 1 in 5 high school seniors reported vaping within a one-month span.

Locally, in San Francisco, the sale of e-cigarettes has already been banned. San Francisco is the home of the Juul Labs headquarters, a major e-cigarette company, and many blame Juul for the rise of vaping due to its deceptive marketing tactics and products that appeal to young adults.

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An ad that was a part of the launch campaign for Juul. PHOTO CREDIT: Stanford University School of Medicine

In a study conducted by a Stanford research team, it was concluded that Juul’s marketing tactics in its first 6 months of operations to be “patently youth-oriented.” Juul’s social media accounts (which have now been shut down) catered mainly to younger adults, and many of its models could have easily passed as high-school or college-age. The study reports that “about 10% of American cigarette smokers are among the age group of those most heavily frequenting JUUL’s social media advertising channels,” which highlights Juul’s promotional efforts were notably misalignedwith its professed purpose.

Juul is also known for its sale of pods that come in vibrant flavors, including some such as watermelon, creme, and mint. While these are meant to make Juuls more appealing to former smokers, it can also cater to youth. The researchers wrote that “youth perceived that flavored e-liquids advertisements are meant for them.” 

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A post on Juul’s (now deleted) Instagram page advertising Creme Brulee flavored Juul pods. PHOTO CREDIT: Juul Labs Instagram

According to Engadget, Juul has responded to the criticism, saying that “We have never marketed to youth […] We have no higher priority than to prevent youth usage of our products. Our product is intended for current adult smokers and our marketing specifically is designed to help achieve that goal.” Anybody under the age of 21 who visits their website will be directed to a smoke-free government site. They also list a lengthy amount of measures taken to prevent the spread of underage vaping, which can be read hereJuul is also known for its sale of pods that come in vibrant flavors, including some such awatermelon, creme, and mint. While these are meant to make Juuls more appealing to former smokers, it can also cater to youth. The researchers wrote that “youth perceived that flavored e-liquids advertisements are meant for them.”

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A 2015 Times Square billboard advertising the launch of Juul. PHOTO CREDIT: Stanford University School of Medicine

What do teachers think? 

So what do teachers at Shasta think about the rise in teenage vaping? One in particular – Vaughan Wilkins – a Summit Expeditions teacher for both Psychology and Wilderness, explores the certain psychological complications and consequences smoking and vaping has on teens.

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Mr. Wilkins teaches both Psychology and Wilderness. PHOTO CREDIT: Albert Chang-Yoo

“The sneaky part of addiction is that you don’t know what’s happening until it’s actually done,” Mr. Wilkins said. Coming from being an addict from high school to college, he himself has experienced the side effects of smoking and addiction, also emphasizing how it reflects our behavior and our inner emotional well-being. “Anyone who gets addicted is not getting something else in their life,” he mentioned.

Even as Mr. Wilkins grew out of his addiction since college and started working as a teacher, he still finds himself in situations where vaping and smoking are still prominent. Last year, Mr. Wilkins said that he had to cancel all of his field trips for his class due to a few smoking incidents happening on one, single field trip alone. “It was a bummer for the kids who had nothing to do with it. But, that’s what happens when you are in a team,” he explained.

Effects on teens

There’s more to smoking than its negative psychological effects on people, especially for teens and adolescents who are just starting the bad habit. According to a 2016 research paper by Tobacco Control, an international journal site with peer-reviewed articles on tobacco’s effects, it was found that recent vape users were more than four likely to report past-year cigarette smoking as people who didn’t vape, as well as twice as likely than those who had smoked in the past but not as the baseline.

The health disadvantages don’t stop there. Another report, one by AAP News & Journals, shows that people that continue to vape and smoke have significantly higher concentrations of carcinogens in urine samples than people who either only smoke or do nothing at all. 

Britt Ehrhardt, the public spokesperson for the Santa Clara Public Health Department, was also able to add on more analysis about the effects of teen vaping in the Bay Area. Ehrhardt pointed out that this is an issue in her county, given the increasing number of teen vape users which is seen very “alarming” in her eyes. According to one of the surveys they have funded, she reports that almost one in every three teens have tried vaping, 

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Juuls contain nicotine, which is highly addicitve. PHOTO CREDIT: Juul.com

“Don’t be fooled: the tobacco industry is intentionally targeting kids and teens with flavors coupled with addictive nicotine,” Ehrhardt warned to teens. Juuls contain almost twenty times more nicotine in one cartridge then a single cigarette. She also debunked the lie that vapes are “just” water vapor.  “The vapor is actually aerosol that may contain metals, particulates, and toxic chemicals. The nicotine content of the aerosol inhaled during vaping can be very high, often much higher than a cigarette.”

What Ehrhardt does with the Santa Clara Public Health Department is that they work with different organizations in the community to prevent tobacco use by means of different presentations to youth who may or may not be struggling with smoking and vaping. As well as that, they have even invested over $1 million to provide for implementation strategies of tobacco prevention in cities since 2010, according to Ehrhardt.

So what does this mean for Shasta students?

For many Shasta students, vaping is a problem that is encountered every day. However, there is proof that it is indeed a path for many to quit, even though it is advisable by many individuals that smoking isn’t something that people should do at all.

As vaping at Shasta continues, Mr. Wilkins has advice for high schoolers who want to try out vaping: “You need food, water, shelter, love — nicotine hijacks all four of those and convinces you the only thing you need is nicotine… the cost is too high.” According to him, it’s very important to “weigh the costs and benefits,” and “think about what’s missing in your life and how to fix that.”

Featured Image: A man using an e-cigarette. PHOTO CREDIT: Wikipedia Commons

Trading card games teach valuable life skills

By Michael Mac Callum

Staff Editor

Imagine walking into your favorite card shop for a local trading card game tournament. You see some of the same people as usual, your typical play group. Wow, there’s a large turnout today; usually there are around eight people, but this time there are 14. 

This was the scene at Lefty’s Sport Cards in Millbrae, California on Sept. 22, starting at 10 a.m. and ranging until 1 p.m.

You play a few games against your first opponent. Narrowly, you lose the first one, and then you win by a large amount on the second game. The set is best of three; you have one game left. You again very narrowly lose, and you go on to your second opponent

You do this two more times; most games are very close, and, at the end, the shop owner asks who won and what the score was. You earn three packs, but the event isn’t over yet; people begin to pull out binders and show each other their cards for trade. You trade a few low value cards for a high value and fairly rare card, a solid trade. 

Players chat and trade cards after the tournament. PHOTO CREDIT: Michael Mac Callum

Now, imagine you are at a Magic the Gathering World Championship; thousands of dollars are at stake. The game is going slow, and the odds are tipping into the opponent’s favor until you draw just the right card to land the last fatal blow. 

This is what happens every year at Trading Card Game tournaments around the globe. Trading Card Games (also known as TCGs) are games where two players duel using decks of collectable cards which all have unique effects. Some popular trading card games you might have heard of would be Magic the Gathering Yu-Gi-Oh or Cardfight Vanguard.

Trading card games are based on luck, deckbuilding, memory and timing, but a lot of the fun is in the community surrounding it, which has been described positively by many. Magic the Gathering Grand Prix competitor Collin Mo said that he feels the TCG community is a “warm and welcoming environment” and that it is “easy to just join in.”

For many people, TCGs are just a hobby. For instance: Shasta senior Luke Kyi, a six-year Cardfight Vanguard player, said he only really plays for fun, not tournaments. But playing as just a hobby isn’t all that is offered; quite a few people play trading card games at a competitive level, or at least want to pursue a competitive level. One of those people include Shasta senior Pius Loo.

When asked whether Loo would consider playing trading card games on a competitive level, he responded, “I would, but I feel like my decks, in all games, are kind of inferior to the meta.” The meta is defined as what decks are currently “tournament viable” and, while you could technically play whatever deck you had at the moment, certain decks are significantly better than others due to either being good against a lot of the other strong decks or just good synergies between powerful cards. This is a problem that some TCG players face because most of the game isn’t just playing — it is the outside planning of deck construction, the consideration of other decks your opponents may bring and knowing how your decks fares against those.

However, those who invest the time have often found themselves a lot of success. One example would be Shasta senior Jason Agbunag, who has been playing Yu-Gi-Oh since second grade. Agbunag once made it to the Yu-Gi-Oh World Tournament, the largest tournament that Yu-Gi-Oh offers. 

But trading card games can often have even more of an impact than just competitive play. As described by Mo, who has participated in the Magic the Gathering Grand Prix event, one of the largest Magic the Gathering tournaments there is, explains that trading card games taught him quite a bit of math and language skills as well as how to take things slowly. He explained, “There’s not too much pressure to make a decision, so it teaches you how to consider your decision and consider the process in which you want to navigate — let’s say — a complicated board state or determine how you want to build your deck.”

In the end, according to Loo and Moyrong, all TCGs are about: collecting cards, dueling others and making “big brain plays.”

Featured Image (at the top of this post): Two players mid-match at a Magic the Gathering tournament. PHOTO CREDIT: Michael Mac Callum

Summit Rainier now offers Ethnic Studies as a course

By Judy Ly

Staff Writer 

Summit Public Schools has been open for 15 years, and this is the first time the course Ethnic Studies has ever been offered at the Summit Public School: Rainier campus in Eastside San Jose.  Ethnic Studies is an interdisciplinary curriculum that teaches about other ethnicities’ significant social impact on U.S. history.  Here at Summit Rainier, we welcome the curriculum with open arms; however, in places like Arizona, politicians did not only dislike the idea of this class, they fought to ban it and succeeded in doing so.  

In class, Rainier students watched the Independent Lens documentary Precious Knowledge.  The film takes place in Arizona and shows how a group of students, most of whom are of Latinx descent, become empowered through the curriculum once they start learning about the history of themselves.  Even with the positive effects the program had on the students, conflict soon arose between politicians and the students.

In an excerpt of the documentary, Tom Horne, former politician and Arizona State Superintendent of Public Instruction at the time, critiques the Ethnic Studies curriculum by saying, “There are better ways to get students to perform academically and want to go into college then to try to infuse them with racial ideas.” When asked if he thought Ethnic Studies was doing anything right, he added, “I really don’t, no. I think they should be abolished.”

House Bill 2281, the ban on Ethnic Studies in Arizona that got passed in 2010, claims the course teaches pupils to “resent or hate other other races of people.” In the ban, it also says it prohibits any class or program that seeks to “promote the overthrow of the United States government.”

Despite what the ban claims, students within the documentary say the class had only helped them understand themselves better and unify.  Students at Summit Rainier joined the class with the same objective.

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Rainier junior Alan Do

When asked why he joined Ethnic Studies, Rainier junior Alan Do said, “I wanted to learn more about the history of marginalized people, and I also want to explore my own identity.”  He continued, “I think going to a class that teaches everyone about each other’s history and each other’s people really allows me to understand people’s backgrounds a lot more.”

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Rainier senior Michelle Thai

Rainier senior Michelle Thai said, “It’s important because you’re learning about your own identity, and that’s really empowering because I feel like people these days, especially minorities, don’t feel as empowered in America.”

The Ethnic Studies instructor at Summit Rainier, Angel Barragan, is hoping for students to not only feel empowered but also to have the academic benefits that come alongside with being enrolled in an Ethnic Studies course. In a study of 1,405 ninth graders, conducted by Stanford and San Francisco Unified School District, students who had eighth grade GPAs below 2.0 were automatically enrolled in Ethnic Studies, while the students who had eighth grade GPAs above 2.0 were able to choose whether or not to enroll in that specific class.  Stanford News states, “The researchers found that attendance for those encouraged to enroll in the class increased by 21 percentage points, GPA by 1.4 grade points and credits earned by 23.”

When the students in Arizona heard that local politicians, including Mr. Horne, were advocating to ban the course by law, they began protesting. They even caught wind of the local politicians having a meeting to discuss the ban and went into the building to protest for their right to the education that made a difference in their lives.

Rainier senior Edwin Escobar said, “I’m not a big protester, however, I think that what really inspired me the most was the people who were low-income, who are minorities.” He added that many minorities are going through a financial struggle, are immigrants, or come from a single-parent household, “so these students are already struggling to just

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Rainier senior Edwin Escobar

work well towards the system, to have a working system for them … when they find the Ethnic Studies class, these kids got engaged, and they sort of left behind all the problems they had, and they focused on what matters to them. They developed a recognition to the importance of studying about their history, and they fought for it and that’s what really inspired me.”

Unfortunately, despite their best efforts, Arizona governor Jan Brewer signed HB-2881, banning classes for a specific ethnic group, which basically shut down Ethnic Studies. This resulted in the Tucson Unified School District shutting down their Mexican American Studies program. In addition, politicians also ruled to ban certain books.  In 2017, there was an article published by NBC News saying Judge Wallace A. Tashima claimed that these bans on books and Ethnic Studies courses were “unconstitutional.”  

When asked why he thought the Ethnic Studies curriculum is so controversial and why politicians might feel the need to ban it, Mr. Barragan answered, “[The politicians] say that the classes are the ones in fact racist, that they were teaching students to overthrow the government, about being with your own race and not mixing with others, but all those things are false.  All these classes are about becoming good 

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Ethnic Studies teacher Angel Barragan

Americans and what it means to be united through our different struggles. I think that’s why; I think they’re afraid of students being able to find their strength and power.”

When asked why Ethnic Studies was important, Escobar said, “What builds America is diversity; and, if you have diversity, there’s history behind diversity.” Escobar explained how if the United States was just a white country, then its history would mainly be about white history. In most schools, the curriculum is still mainly about the dominant culture’s history. For the people of color who crucially influenced American history, their stories weren’t told because they aren’t as powerful as the dominant culture. Ethnic people were totally disregarded from U.S. history, and Ethnic Studies curriculum seeks to address that imbalance. 

Escobar concluded, “If history is such an important concept in America, then why is it that we only have to learn one type of history and it’s the only type of  history permitted in America?”

The Summit News team will be following this class throughout the year.  

Featured image (at the top of this post):  The Ethnic Studies teacher, Angel Barragan, hosted an event called Why Ethnic Studies Matter when he was president of the Ethnic Studies Student Organization at San Francisco State University.  PHOTO CREDIT: Angel Barragan.

Journalists feel the effect of President Trump’s perception of libel

By Amanda Ramirez

Staff Writer

Donald Trump might take action on his negative views toward the media by “opening up libel laws” during his presidency. Many times throughout Mr. Trump’s campaign trail, the public has noticed his libel threats upon journalists. One example is from a Donald Trump rally in Fort Worth, Texas on Feb. 26, 2016, which gave insight of his thoughts and plans for the media.

“I’ll tell you what, I think the media is among the most dishonest groups of people I’ve ever met,”  he said at the rally, according to Business Insider.

Business Insider also recorded that Mr. Trump went on to say, “I’m going to open up our libel laws so when they write purposely negative and horrible and false articles, we can sue them and win lots of money.

However, he contradicts his statement of “…we can sue them and win lots of money” by also saying, “With me, they’re not protected, because I’m not like other people, but I’m not taking money, I’m not taking their money” at the same rally in Fort Worth, Texas.

During this rally, Mr. Trump mentioned that he plans to change libel laws in the United States so that he can have an easier time suing news organizations for writing “purposefully negative, horrible, and false articles.” In order to understand what Mr. Trump’s future intentions of weakening libel laws are, it is important to understand what libel is in the first place.

According to the Student Press Law Center, libel is the publication of a false statement of fact that seriously harms someone’s reputation.

* What are the steps to sue for libel?  

  1. Has been published
  2. Identifies a specific individual
  3. Is false
  4. Asserts a fact
  5. Causes serious harm to a reputation
  6. Shows — at a minimum — that a journalist acted unreasonably, that he or she was somehow at fault.

Mr. Trump believed that he could sue the New York Times for an article written about him, but that article did not meet the libel requirements.

This threat to the New York Times began with a video from 2005 that recently went viral as it revealed Mr. Trump’s ‘locker-room banter’ and derogatory language to describe women. After the video surfaced, the New York Times released an article including additional claims of Trump sexually assaulting women.

After the release of the New York Times article, Mr. Trump’s lawyer, Marc E. Kasowitz, threatened to sue the New York Times for libel in a letter stating, “Your article is reckless, defamatory and constitutes libel per se,”

Considering this article “falls clearly into the realm of public service journalism,” as spokesperson for the The New York Times Eileen Murphy mentioned in a responding statement, The New York Times will not renounce the article from their website. In other words, since the purpose of journalism is to inform the public, it would be a disservice to hide these allegations from the people. Therefore, The New York Times will continue to stand by this article.

David McCraw, vice president and assistant general counsel of The New York Times, responded to the letter from Mr. Trump’s lawyer to explain why their article is not libel. In Mr. McCraw’s response letter, he argued that The New York Times cannot be sued for libel in damaging Mr. Trump’s reputation because he has publicly created that reputation for himself in other statements he has made.

“Nothing in our article has had the slightest effect on the reputation that Mr. Trump, through his own words and actions, has already created for himself,” wrote Mr. McCraw.

With these requirements in mind, Mr. Trump’s idea of libel in this scenario does not fit the true definition. Just because what the media writes might not always flatter Mr. Trump, as long as the information reported is proven to be truthful, journalists will be protected from Donald Trump’s libel threats.

Featured Image Photo Credit: Gage Skidmore / Flickr