By Krishna Lathish | Contributor
Senior Jose Campos stared, dumbfounded, as the student held out the Juul like an olive branch; one hit in return for his discretion. He wasn’t worried about what to do. What had Campos scratching his head is that he hadn’t come fiending for nicotine at a house party – he’d just wanted to use the bathroom between classes at Avon High School.
As the e-cigarette epidemic sweeps the nation, American students might sympathize with Campos; for them, being confronted with a Juul on bathroom visit isn’t too far-fetched. Sometimes students are caught, sometimes not, but for these underage addicts, their furtive relationship with nicotine could come crashing down with one concerned peer. Is it a student’s responsibility to report an underaged vaper, or are they overstepping their bounds?
Senior Corinne O’Neill thinks no; it’s not her place to govern what her friends do, or in this case, smoke, but that doesn’t mean she has to like it.
“It’s not my decision, and I’m not doing that,” said O’Neill. “It’s not cool because they talk about it all the time, and it’s just kind of annoying. But, it’s not my place to tell them that they can’t or shouldn’t [vape].”
O’Neill isn’t alone. In a survey of Avon High School students, 46.3% said that they would never consider reporting a student for vaping. The reasonings varied but echoed the same general statement: “I’m not a narc;” ”It’s not my place to;” or simply, “None of my business.”
However, in the case that the scenario ever became personal, sophomore Ryan Nattress said he knows exactly what he would tell a friend who’s vaping.
“If they’re underage, I would tell them to stop, because it’s stupid and they could get in a lot of trouble,” said Nattress. “But if they’re of age, I would tell them to not do it around me, because I don’t want to be associated with them.”
What has these teens wielding e-cigarettes in the first place? According to the Center for Disease Control and Prevention, over 20% of high schoolers were reported vaping in 2018 – nearly double that of 2017.
Junior Elizabeth Carter attributes e-cigarettes’ success among high schoolers to the flavored pods; she believes the flavors cater to children, rather than adults.
“If you have flavors like bubble gum and gummy bear, it’s clearly to advertise to kids because they like those flavors,” said Carter. “Adults who actually were or are addicted to cigarettes, they want tobacco or mint – but they don’t want to feel like a kid while doing it.”
All may not be lost; will vaping lose the attention of teens, or is it due to replace alcohol and cigarettes? Campos is split.
“I don’t think vaping has replaced cigarettes and alcohol. That’s a separate kind of thing,” said Campos. “I think that it could lead to the use of more drugs and alcohol. I think vaping probably is a fad; I’m not sure. I don’t think it’s gonna be huge in the next couple of years.”
The fate of vaping remains to be seen, but Campos can confidently say that he doesn’t plan on adding to the statistics. He doesn’t vape, nor wants to start, and simply turned down his chance bathroom offer without another thought. But why risk asking, when the consequences for vaping on campus can be so dire?
“I just stand by my decision to not do it,” he said, laughing. “I don’t think they expected me to be in the next stall.”