Smoke and Mirrors

How the vaping epidemic is affecting LHS

Photo+by+Hattie+Ludwig
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Smoke and Mirrors

Photo by Hattie Ludwig

Photo by Hattie Ludwig

Photo by Hattie Ludwig

Photo by Hattie Ludwig

Jennavieve Carmony, Caty Franklin, and Ashley Tindall

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When students hear the word “smoking,” many people think of older people with raspy voices. But when students hear “vaping,” they instantly think of high school students vaping in the bathrooms. Vaping is an issue that hits too close to home for Liberty High School students.

Photo by Sabrina Brooke

Physical Harm

Despite the reasons behind teens choosing to vape, there are real consequences, both physical and mental.

“You’re talking about a liquid that you smoke, a hot liquid into your lungs,” Security Officer Kim True said. “There have been two deaths already contributed to vaping. Vaping hasn’t been out for many years, and people are already dying from it.”

Vaping also causes physical side effects.

Photo by Hattie Ludwig

“I have seen quite a few of chemical burns to the throat and occasional coughs in students that have chosen to vape,” school nurse Becky Kovac said. “There is also a disease known in layman’s terms as popcorn lung that is a permanent disorder of the lung.  This is caused by inhaling chemicals and was first noticed among factory workers making popcorn. It has been recently noticed in people that use vapes.  It is unsure how long that the process takes to develop these permanent lung changes, but they can lead to the necessity of a lung transplant.”

Senior Courtney Byrd said, “High schoolers shouldn’t be doing it, adults shouldn’t be doing it. It’s just not good for your body. You’re putting harmful substances in your body for no reason.”

Not only physical harm can come from vaping, but what can be seen as a way to relax just might be doing the opposite.

“Nicotine does cause a lot of stress and anxiety,” Bratcher said. “People will smoke it to prevent stress and anxiety, but long term research shows that it actually causes stress and anxiety. It’s interesting that people will do a drug to counter what they’re feeling, but really, it increases that feeling.”

Marketing to Teens

Although it’s popular, the extent of its popularity comes from the way vapes are marketed.

Photo by Sabrina Brooke

When polled by The Bell staff, 55.9% of LHS student respondents believe vaping companies are targeting high school students, and school resource officer Rob Bratcher agrees.

“Vapes marketed to the 14 to 24 year old’s with the flavors and the different ways to do it,” Bratcher said. “In the Liberty District, it seems like vaping has become the cool thing to do, all of the sudden.”

“I used to smoke, and vaping was another alternative to that. I eventually quit smoking, as soon as I started vaping,” a student who required anonymity said. “It took maybe a few days to quit smoking, but then I just kept vaping.”

“Anytime we hear of a vape, district security does have a right to search your belongings and/or your person, and they will do so.”

— Resource Officer Rob Bratcher

How Vaping Affects Teens

“The vaping epidemic has significant implications on the physical and mental health of young adults,” principal April Adams said. Adams went on to explain that teens and young adults can become addicted much more easily when they do things that they perceive as enjoyable.

Across the Nation

Vaping is not just an issue impacting LHS. Nationally, six people have died from vaping-related causes, and more cases are under investigation. FDA released a statement informing the public that the vapes causing these deaths contain THC, a component of the cannabis plant.

The most recent death occurred in Kansas on September 10. Dr. Lee Norman, Kansas State Health Officer and Secretary for the Kansas Department of Health and Environment, said in a Kansas Department of Health news release, “It is time to stop vaping. If you or a loved one is vaping, please stop.

Photo by Hattie Ludwig

The recent deaths across our country, combined with hundreds of reported lung injury cases continue to intensify. I’m extremely alarmed for the health and safety of Kansans who are using vaping products and urge them to stop until we can determine the cause of vaping related lung injuries and death.”

Solutions

Finding one catch-all solution to a problem this massive is never easy, but one idea is through education.

The Liberty Intervention Focusing on Education program, which all LPS middle schoolers participate in, has a new curriculum focused on the dangers of vaping. At the high school level, Liberty Senior displays posters in the bathrooms encouraging safe habits.

Photo by Sabrina Brooke

“Peer-to-peer education is really effective in preventing vaping,” Community Development Specialist for Clay County Public Health Center Danielle Roethler said. “Students can create positive peer pressure and encourage their friends to not vape. I think it is also helpful for high schoolers to connect their friends who are already vaping to resources to help them quit. Vaping is addictive, so it is really hard to just stop. However, there are a few new apps and texting services that are designed to help teens quit. The quitSTART app and SmokefreeTXT have been helpful for a lot of people.”

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