Vaping has emerged as a new trend over the past decade, particularly among teenagers, where nicotine and other drugs are inhaled as vapor. The alarming increase in vaping among young people is disheartening, with children as young as 11 picking up the habit. The National Youth Tobacco Survey reveals that 78% of teenagers use e-cigarettes. The question arises, how has vaping become so widespread, and why has it become a major concern for high schools?
The appeal of vaping among teenagers stems from the perception that it is trendy and offers quick relief from depression or anxiety. However, ironically, vaping can cause increased anxiety over time. Moreover, vaping can negatively impact the developing teen brain. Adolescence is a critical period for brain development, and nicotine in vapes can disrupt brain circuits responsible for attention and learning.
Vaping has been heavily marketed to teenagers, using attractive flavors such as Guava Passion, Blue Razz Lemonade, and Strawberry Kiwi, among others. The Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) reports that 69% of middle school students have been exposed to vaping due to extensive online marketing efforts by e-cigarette companies.
Many teenagers take up vaping to alleviate depression or anxiety, but this can backfire and increase depression over the long term. Quitting vaping is challenging due to its addictive nature, and users often feel discouraged in their attempts to quit. Frequent vaping can lead to sleep problems, affecting a student's ability to perform well in school.
The prevalence of vaping is exacerbating the already high levels of depression and anxiety among teenagers. While the long-term effects of vaping are still under investigation, the CDC has established that quitting vaping can lower stress and anxiety levels, and increase overall well-being.
In addition to mental health issues, vaping can also have adverse physical effects, such as harmful substances and flavorings in aerosols that can damage lung health, leading to shortness of breath, high blood pressure, swollen lymph nodes, and other problems.
The seriousness of the vaping phenomenon is evident when students need to leave a standard high school class to vape, disrupting both their own learning and that of their peers. Instead of addressing the underlying issues, teenagers are turning to vaping as a coping mechanism. Nicotine in vaping stimulates dopamine, creating feelings of relaxation and pleasure, but healthy activities such as exercise, consuming more protein, and reducing saturated fat intake can also increase dopamine levels in a positive way.
High schools must not normalize vaping and consider it a cry for help instead of accepting it as a prevalent and tolerated phenomenon. High school administrations must take the threat of vaping more seriously by educating students about the harmful effects and helping them develop a healthier mindset. Instead of relying on statistics and numbers on paper, high schools should prioritize real, personable experiences and conversations to make a significant impact on students. Hearing from individuals who have beaten addiction can be inspiring and helpful for the younger generation.
In conclusion, high schools must recognize that unhappy students lead to an unhealthy school environment. By taking proactive measures to educate and support students, high schools can help curb the vaping trend and promote overall student well-being.