Teen Lives are Going up in Vapor

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Teen Lives are Going up in Vapor

Scout Molder, Co Editor-In-Chief

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My mom was 15 years old when she started smoking cigarettes. She used to buy them from a vending machine at the bowling alley, no I.D. required, all while in her high school cheerleading uniform.

When I was younger, I used to think it was crazy how easy it was for such a young person to access something so dangerous. I used to ask myself, “Why would she do that? Didn’t she know how easily that could ruin her life? How could she be so stupid?”

Flash forward to today, and I’m a straight A student. I’m in debate, I play soccer and I edit the newspaper. I think most people consider me a good kid.

And yet despite all of this, I’ve found myself sitting in the passenger seat of a friend’s car blowing clouds of water vapor into the mirror, my head buzzing with the slight high from the nicotine. And I found myself asking the same questions that I used to ask about my mom. Why would I do this? Don’t I know how easy it is for this to ruin my life? How could I be so stupid?

But here’s the thing: I’m not stupid, and neither was my mom. Neither are any of the young people who find themselves suddenly addicted to nicotine. We’re teenagers. We’re stressed, we want to fit in and look cool and we often don’t think about the long-term consequences of our actions. And just like my mom buying her cigarettes from the vending machine, the quick fix of nicotine really isn’t that hard to find.

All it takes for a teenager to access almost any nicotine vaporizer is a quick Google search and a little bit of online shopping, which comes as a second nature for most teens. Most websites will ask you to certify that you’re at least 21, but they require no actual age verification. Once you’ve clicked the “Yes, I’m 21” button, all you have to do is find the vape you want and select your flavors of nicotine juice. As long as you have a personal debit card (which most teens do), you’ve just ordered a substantial amount of nicotine without an adult even having a clue.

To make matters worse, vape companies have recently created smaller, more modern looking vaporizers (for example, the infamous Juul). Combine that with a wide selection of delicious nicotine flavors and little to no smell, and you’ve got a recipe for thousands of teenage nicotine addictions, just like that. It’s not great for the kids, and it really doesn’t consider the law, but it’s wonderful for sales, so who cares, right?

Let’s reconsider the age-old question of why so many teens have found themselves consuming nicotine. For everyone who is trying to combat the prevalence of nicotine addictions amongst young people, this seems to be the most important question. Considering the history of teen nicotine consumption, from cigarettes in the 80s to vaping in 2018, I think we should be asking ourselves how we expected this not to be a problem.

Vaping is dangerous. According to Truth Initiative, an organization dedicated to stopping youth tobacco use, one Juul pod contains the nicotine content equivalent of about one pack of cigarettes. Because of this, many people ridicule teens for their obsession with vaping. But given the circumstances, I don’t really think that level of criticism is appropriate.

People make the argument that we should know better, but the bottom line is that we’re still kids. We’re irresponsible, and we require guidance. Let’s be honest: did we seriously expect a bunch of teenagers not to do the thing they definitely aren’t supposed to do, especially when it’s made so fun and easy? Of course not.

It’s a natural cycle of events. My mom did it in high school with the vending machine cigarettes, and we do it now with online vaping products, so we need to be aware of the consequences and take comprehensive action against it.

According to an article by USA Today, the FDA has recently called teen vaping an “epidemic,” and has announced plans to crack down on online vape purchases by requiring companies such as Juul to prove that they are requiring adequate forms of age verification. This is a good start, but lawmakers and vape companies need to follow through with these actions if they truly want to reduce the risk of teen addictions.

The fact of the matter is that vaping is bad for you, and no matter the product or the decade, teenagers will always do what they’re not supposed to if they can get away with it. Honestly, I don’t think we’ll be able to completely end the nicotine epidemic anytime soon, but that doesn’t mean that lawmakers and vape companies shouldn’t be doing everything they can to keep as many innocent young people as possible from seeing their lives go up in vapor because of an addiction.

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