Vape nation, or vape cessation?

Johnson Longhorne ripping a fat vape in the RAHS parking lot
Photo by Zachary Sleeth

Teenage vaping has become a hotly debated topic in society at large, as well as in the RAHS school community. In light of the 27 Jan. 2018 Winter Ball ending early due to students being caught vaping and the onset of prom season, more caution is being taken in hopes to prevent another incident.

RAHS Junior Juarez Rosborough believes that vaping as a whole is the decision of the student, but should be taken seriously in school and school-sanctioned events.

“In our school setting I see [vaping] as uncalled for; I don’t see why you would need to vape at school,” said Rosborough. “If you want to do it outside of school then go ahead, it’s your life you can do what you want. Just don’t do it in school.”

While the issue is clear, it may be potentially difficult to prevent school vaping from occurring.

“I’d have to say that bringing it to school dances is a choice someone makes that shouldn’t have been made. It’s kinda hard to stop it in general though — if someone chooses to bring that in they’re going to bring it in anyways,” said Rosborough. “You won’t be able to search everyone as they walk in.”

While students are able to do what they deem fit outside of school without penalty from admins like Vice Principal Mr. Holloway, inside of school there are rules that still apply, whether you’re 18 or not.

“Inside these walls, the expectation is there’s no drugs, there’s no smoking, there’s no alcohol or things of that nature,” said Holloway. “[Vaping] falls in the same line [as drugs and smoking] in my opinion, and that’s how we’ve been able to stay out of the grey area; keep it black and white, like ‘this is what’s not permitted.’”

While the law of the land is clear, not every violator can be caught.

“I only have two eyes and there’s four-hundred of you. I can’t always see if a kid might be in the bathroom or something like that,” said Holloway. “It’s almost like when you’re on the highway and you’re speeding: there’s one police officer, he can’t catch all the cars that are up there, but the one he does catch is the one that’s gonna get the penalty and the punishment, because he physically saw that person speeding. So if I definitely physically see it, I have to say something and do something about it.”

While there are efforts to crack down on vaping in school, not much can be done by administration outside of school, which is heard about more.

“Before coming to Raisbeck [I] was at a middle school, and there were several incidences, this was in Arizona, of even 8th graders vaping in the neighborhoods,” said Theresa Tipton, RAHS principal. “We’d never had an incident on campus of vaping, but heard of kids in the neighborhood and several of the local high schools.”

Senior James Mitchell has heard of the dangers of second-hand smoking, and ultimately does not advocate for smoking on school grounds. He does, however, respect students’ choice to smoke and believes schools should as well.  

“I think that it’s not a good thing in the educational setting, even like in the halls. But I’m perfectly fine with it being on campus if it’s like away in designated zones,” said Mitchell. “My main objection is health risks and it never being forced on students. I’m totally okay with them making the choice though.”

Mitchell understands the caution surrounding vape but thinks the punishment for violators should not be as severe, especially given the legality of it.

“I err on the side of saying that it shouldn’t be banned, but that it should be on a warning basis, that there shouldn’t be any of kind suspension,” said Mitchell. “I don’t think it should accelerate [as fast as it does], especially when it’s something fairly mild that’s legal anyway at 18. I think it’s a little unfair to instantly suspend someone for doing it at a school dance, although I don’t think they should be doing it inside.”

Sophomore Molly Brombaugh, on the other hand, thinks there should be much stricter rules surrounding vaping in school.

“[Vaping is] generally unhealthy and personally not recommended, and I feel it does show a lower level of society and maybe that person [who is vaping],” said Brombaugh. “It’s generally bad practice for youths and it should be enforced a bit more than it is.”

On the other hand, junior Ariana McDowell believes that, while not a vaper herself, vaping can be a stress reliever.

“For some people I’m sure it’s to try to calm down if they’re stressed,” said McDowell, “but I think that it’s definitely not a school thing.”

While it may have some merits, Brombaugh maintains that vaping comes with health concerns, and that these concerns should be approached with enforced regulation.

“I feel that [vaping in school] should be more enforced and the legal regulation should change to prevent youths from using vaping devices just because of the health concerns,” said Brombaugh. “Additionally, if youths are not actively purchasing their own vaping devices, then that’s bad practice for adults to do as well, and it should be treated in a manner similar to alcohol.”

To Arianna, the final decisions on vaping is that of the parents.

“A lot of kids from my old highschool and my grade do it,” said McDowell, “and I feel like if their parents are okay with it it’s fine.”

Mitchell shares a partially similar opinion, believing that current laws preventing youth from drug-usage are a good idea, but in the future can be improved with legalization.

“I think that the choice should be made individually, but I think, as a rule, legislation blocking stuff until you’re 18 is a good idea,” said Mitchell. “I think that the end game for drugs is that basically everything that’s illegal now should be legalized, de-stigmatized, taxed so that there can be de-stigmatized aid available to people and it’s a more realistic choice.”

In general, Brombaugh sees vaping as a recreation that should not be brought into schools or school dances.

“Honestly if they’re gonna try and do it, that was kind of stupid of them to get caught like that, but I can understand maybe people would want to do that stuff as a recreational activity or to liven up a party, but don’t do it in public if you’re gonna try and get away with it,” said Brombaugh. “I feel that vaping in school distracts from the learning environment and reduces student’s capabilities and potential, and it kind of goes against the message of the school of health and safety and making good choices.”

Not only is it a distraction, Holloway sees vaping as a negative social trend that threatens the school environment.

“I think [drugs and vape] are relatively the same. I think kids are always going to attempt to push the envelope with it, because it is different, it’s something new. Social media, society, doesn’t do anything to help that, right, because it’s a new thing, it’s a trend now. Potentially students may be trying that outside of here, and unfortunately I can’t do anything about what goes on outside of here,” said Holloway, “but my job, my duty, is to protect the lives and the school climate and environment that’s here.”

As vaping gains more steam, the RAHS faculty recognize that it’s an issue that can be potentially solved through communication.

“One thing that we could probably do better is ensuring students are aware of consequences, why or why not something is okay or not. Also the potential harmful effects,” said Tipton. “I think every generation went through their own version of this, whatever it happened to be at the time, and as adults, as a school team, we need to educate ourselves more of what [that] is.”

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