“Vaping is safe because it uses technology..."

"Vaping is healthy because it is made of flavored water..."

"My parents let me vape at home so I don’t become addicted to nicotine.” 


When I first became principal three years ago, this is what students told me about vaping. This naivete concerned me, and we have had various initiatives on campus such as guest speakers and student health and wellness presentations.  As part of our commitment to combat this national epidemic, I am dedicating this blog to the topic of vaping to help you, as parents, have conversations with your children. 

What is vaping?

Vaping is the act of inhaling and exhaling the vapor produced by the heated nicotine liquid (often called “juice”) of an electronic cigarette (e-cigarette or e-cig), vape pen, or personal vaporizer. It’s also commonly called JUULing (pronounced jewel-ing).  JUUL’s were actually created by two smokers who wanted to quit traditional cigarettes. These e-cigarettes come in flavors such as cotton candy, creme brulee, mango, and watermelon. 

Is it really an epidemic?

  • The FDA reported last year that 2 million middle and high school students admitted to using e-cigarettes.  JUUL has admitted that it has a 70 percent market share.

Is it safe?

  • E-cigarettes contain high levels of nicotine.  According to JUUL, the nicotine content of one JUUL pod is equivalent to one pack of cigarettes.

  • Because of these high nicotine levels, vaping is extremely addictive — and teens are already more susceptible to addiction than adults because their brains are still developing, which makes them more likely to use drugs and alcohol.

  • Addiction can impact the ability to focus. In one study, adolescents report that vaping initially increases their alertness and attention, but then experience a decrease in attention span. One student, for example, was able to sit through practice ACT exams but after JUULing for six months “can’t sit still because she starts craving, can’t think of questions, and just starts fidgeting.”

  • E-cigarettes and similar devices contain carcinogenic compounds, and a recent study found significantly increased levels of carcinogens in the urine of teens who vape.

  • One study found that vaping does, in fact, cause lung irritation akin to that seen in smokers and people with lung disease and causes damage to vital immune system cells.

  • There have been several deaths and hundreds of cases of lung illness attributed to vaping. Right now it is unclear if the cause is bootleg cartridges containing THC or CBD oil or legal nicotine cartridges. The CDC and the American Medical Association are recommending that people avoid vaping entirely while this is being investigated.

  • Vaping increases heart rate and blood pressure and can increase circulatory problems. Student-athletes are discovering that they can no longer sustain the heart rate required for cardiovascular exercise.  

What do vape devices look like?

I did what I always do when shopping and went to Amazon.  I searched “vaping device,” but quickly realized that “aromatherapy inhaler” produced the same product listing.  I wasn’t surprised by these results:

  • USB flash drive

  • Phone case

  • Computer mouse

  • Inhaler

  • Pen

I was shocked by these results:

  • Hoodie sweatshirt neck string

  • Backpack shoulder strap

  • Necklaces

  • Cross pen look-a-likes

  • Apple watch look-a-likes

What are schools doing to stop vaping? What is Canterbury’s policy?

According to our handbook, having a vaping device on campus is a major infraction and possessing this device could result in a suspension or expulsion. Using such a device would obviously also carry a significant consequence. Sometimes I feel like the mythic Greek king, Sisyphus, always pushing the rock up the hill only to have it roll back down. Some of my peers in the area and nationally have installed vape detectors in restrooms and other areas. Unfortunately, these detectors have limited capabilities and often have flawed results. Some schools have an immediate dismissal for anyone suspected of vape use on campus. Other schools have an immediate alternative school policy for anyone in the room where smoking or vaping is occurring even if that person is not actually smoking. In my opinion, the best practice is to continue to educate our students, parents, and teachers, and if a situation develops, make the best decision for a consequence for the student in question and our community.  

What is happening with the legislation of vaping?

In September 2019, President Trump created an FDA initiative to review the possibility of the removal of all non-nicotine flavored e-cigarettes and “juices” from the market.  Some companies, including JUUL, have removed some of these flavors on their own before being listed as non-compliant. These companies have also changed their marketing to no longer directly appeal to teenagers and are now marketing to adult smokers who want to switch from traditional cigarettes.

What should parents do?

  • Become educated about vaping. Take an inquisitive and curious approach. Keep the conversation going as a dialogue, not as condemnation.

  • To begin the conversation, just ask if students vape. Then inquire about your child’s experience and the flavors of vaping. If you get a sense of what your child knows about vaping, then you have the beginnings of the conversation to educate your child.  

  • If you are concerned that your child is vaping, contact your family doctor to discuss methods of treatment.  Vaping can be more severe than cigarette use and needs to be taken seriously. This is not a phase in which your child can grow out of on his or her own.


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