Generational pressure encourages vaping, students experience nicotine consequences
Athletes, academics and artists choose their own path and accept the consequences of their decisions. Foundations for those choices stem from diverse traditions, values, religious beliefs and moral compasses. Fresno Christian, despite its religious affiliation, faces similar societal pressures and vices as larger academic high school institutions.
Each generation has faced its own pressures. From alcohol and nicotine cigarettes of the ’50s and ‘60s rock ‘n’ roll to the ’70s free love rebellion and the MTV youth of the ’80s, youth popularizes their own unique culture, leading to heightened addictions, multiple health issues and death.
Crack cocaine, which played a major role in the ‘80s and spiraled into the ’90s, contributed to the breakout of HIV: shared dirty needles escalated problems leading to ongoing drug abuse consequences still prevalent today. This issue was recently spotlighted in the Oscar-nominated film Bohemian Rhapsody, which chronicles Queen frontman Freddy Mercury’s battle with HIV.
As history repeats itself, young people today return to the draw of nicotine. Since the electronic cigarettes’ U.S. introduction in 2007, the use of nicotine products amid teenagers have skyrocketed. E-cigarette technologies introduced new mediums for nicotine consumption.
FC principal Amy Deffenbacher provides insight into the dynamics of the campus and the influence of culture on the student body.
“A misconception about smaller Christian schools is that they are a bubble, immune to the temptations or pressures one might expect in another school setting,” Deffenbacher said. “In reality, we bump into almost every issue that is common on another school campus, including, but not limited to, substance abuse, gossip, ditching, defiance, and inappropriate relationships.”
Tobacco containing nicotine can be sniffed, smoked or chewed. E-cigarettes, recently gaining more popularity, have become a preferred way to consume nicotine. By 2014, e-cigarettes were the most commonly used tobacco product among high school and middle school students.
In the following tweet, The NY Times reports about a proposed ban by the FDA to deter e-cig sales to youth.
The F.D.A. says menthol, mint and tobacco-flavored e-cigarettes can stay out in the open, but retailers must wall off other flavored e-cigarettes to prevent youth sales. The agency also proposed a ban on flavored cigars smoked by 1.3 million youths. https://t.co/qxwCv99aua
— NYT Health (@NYTHealth) March 14, 2019
Created for easier nicotine consumption and intended solely for adults, Electronic Nicotine Delivery Systems (ENDS) first entered the US market around 2007. Differing from the traditional ‘analog’ cigarette, e-cigarettes offer a wide variety of flavors, colors, modifications and the ease of concealment, all of which entice a younger audience. While vaping may smell better and include fewer toxins, users are still partaking in the consumption of foreign chemicals and substances.
These vaping products include e-cigarettes, vapes, vaporizers, vape pens, hookah pens and Juuls. While there are many products on the market, all e-cigarettes have the same four basic components: battery, coil, wick and e-liquid. The liquid is drawn onto the coil by the wick which is then heated with electricity from the battery. The heated liquid turns into a vapor that is then inhaled.
Whether used as a way to deal with stress or a way to connect with peers, the number of middle- and high school students that use e-cigarettes has increased to more than 1.5 million students between 2017 and 2018 according to a 2018 FDA National youth tobacco survey.
Experiencing pressure to get involved with substance use in both public and private schools, campus student Jane Doe* explains how vaping has affected her.
“I’ve had people approach me asking if I wanted to try things or buy it both at public school and here on campus,” Doe said. “It is tempting because you want to fit in with the crowd, but it is uncomfortable for me because I know it’s wrong. My parents, along with my therapist and my aunt who has experienced similar struggles when she was in high school have all come alongside to help me get through it.”
Often times students struggling with this phenomenon don’t know where to find help. As highlighted in an ABC News article, mentors, parents, family members and therapists can all provide help.
“When people try it (vaping) for the first time, they really don’t think it will be that bad or addicting,” Doe continued. “They try to be cool and fit in but it can actually really hurt your body. I noticed myself getting headaches pretty often when I was vaping. It can have really negative effects on your body, so I would not recommend it.”
Exposure to nicotine at a young age has many consequences, one of which includes addiction. The adolescent brain has an enhanced sensitivity to the addictive properties of nicotine which can harm its development.
While not all e-cigarettes contain nicotine, there are still numerous harmful chemicals in the liquid. Some additional substances incorporated in the nicotine-free vape juice include acrolein, which attacks molecules that hold cells together in the lungs, nitrosamines, which are carcinogens, and lead, a heavy metal neurotoxin which is a poison that acts on the nervous system and many others.
Simplified: vape juice does not always include nicotine, however, its usage still leads to the breakdown of cells in the lungs and hindered brain development.
While long-term effects are still unknown due to their relatively recent introduction, it is known that nicotine causes lasting effects on the brain. The drug increases dopamine levels in the brain, causing a stimulating effect on the individual.
In the following podcast, a campus student explains the effects of vaping.
In 2016, California passed legislation that raised the age limit to purchase any ‘tobacco product’ (covering both conventional cigarettes, as well as e-cigarettes) to 21 years of age, making any consumption or purchase of tobacco or nicotine products illegal for teens. However, this age varies in different states.
Seeking acceptance from his friends, campus student John Doe* started vaping while he struggled with challenging life situations. Not knowing much about the product, Doe didn’t think about how it would affect him.
“Many good friends in my life started doing it (vaping) so I wanted to do it also to fit in,” Doe said. “However, they never actually pressured me to do it. I wasn’t in a good state when I first tried it and didn’t feel like it was a big deal. At the time, I was facing so many other problems that this seemed like nothing.”
After using the vape, Doe realized the consequences of associating himself with the trend. For him, the use of these products lessened his credibility among many adults around him. While admitting an addition can be difficult, there are people who can listen and help users change their course before the issue disrupts important relationships.
“Getting involved in it has definitely had a negative effect on me, especially with my parents and home life,” Doe continued. “It has caused a lot of mistrust with my parents and going out with friends. It can get you in trouble with the school and it will just cause adults and other people to not trust you. My advice would be to not try it because even if you do and don’t get caught; eventually it’s gonna lead you down the wrong path.”
Students who decide to give vaping a try often times are unaware of the health risks or to just get involved in the social activity. When thinking about the possibility of vaping, consider the consequences. Choices and resulting ramifications not only cause health issues, but academic, social and even spiritual ones even if the user is ignorant or naïve.
Principal Deffenbacher expresses concern about the core issues causing students to turn to substances such as nicotine. She determines to understand and help students who struggle with hardship.
“The advantage we have, being in small community, is the opportunity to address things faster and to talk about God’s perspective on the situation,” Deffenbacher said. “At the end of it all, I am more concerned with what is being filled by the bad choice than the bad choice itself. These behaviors and choices are made out of brokenness and hurt that is much deeper than a surface level curiosity about drugs, sex or independence.”
Deffenbacher encourages students dealing with brokenness to seek help from a staff member at Fresno Christian.
The following video provides a perspective on how one choice can lead to a domino of consequences.
For more information on how to handle vaping, visit Become a SmokeFree Teen website.
If you need help quitting, The National Drug Helpline offers tips/advice for people of all ages!
*Names withheld to protect the identity of the individual.@thefeather, Instagram @thefeatheronline and Facebook @thefeatheronline.
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