Vaping plagues WMHS

Kalleen Rose Ozanic, Editor-in-Chief

As of late, there has been an upward trend in the popularity of vaping among the public. Vaping became popular in the early 2000’s. Seen as trendy and attractive among youthful consumers, it has hit its fever pitch; while this is a struggle seen globally and nationwide, it is undeniable that vaping is the plague of West Milford teens. In a survey of thirteen individuals in my classroom, I found that each subject knew someone who vapes. While this doesn’t seem like a shocking discovery, keep in mind that I am in a room filled with sixteen- and seventeen-year-olds. There are limitless stories of both young men and women walking in the bathroom only to be smoked out by their counterparts.
This has become a major problem in our school, and more than just students have become aware. Teachers and administrators have been on high alert to watch for students engaging in such illicit activities during the school day. This year more than ever, there has been a crackdown on vaping at West Milford High School. The consequences of vaping have been reiterated multiple times to the student body in hopes of ending the unhealthy habit to no avail. On the first offense, there is a $250 fine, followed by a $500 fine on the second offense, and $750 for the third; all of these fees are accompanied by strict disciplinary action.
What I don’t understand is this: why are students investing their time and money in such a wasteful and unhealthy act? Vaping—and not to seem elitist or patronizing (okay, a little)— is not cool. The same way we see cigarette smokers now is how teens should view “vapers”. Smoking is disgraceful. It is unhealthy and harms one’s body in the long run. In this most recent decade, the amount of cigarette smokers in the US has dropped dramatically, especially in the younger age demographic. But I’m wary to say this is an improvement because through my personal—though limited—observations, younger adolescents have decided not to smoke cigarettes but have replaced the habit with vaping.
While vaping has less devastating effects than cigarettes do, it is still ridiculously unhealthy. Vaping devices have only been regulated by the FDA since 2016, as opposed to cigarettes, which have faced regulations for many years now. And because of the only recent government control over vaping, there are still many chemicals and harmful additives in these hot items.
These harmful factors have not failed to come to the attention of administrators in our school, either. On February 9, Mr. Pollaro made a voice announcement in the morning saying that all bathrooms in the high school would be equipped with vape detectors (he later confirmed that these alarms would be silent and would send a notification to all teachers and administrators in the vicinity). When I heard this announcement, I was in my gym homeroom class, and I can assuredly say that cries of disapproval were abound. While I myself laughed at these delinquents, I also found myself perplexed as to why teens are so obsessed with this dark so-called image of maturity. Vaporizers, in the state of New Jersey, are subject to the same laws as cigarettes, which means that it is illegal to purchase or smoke them under the age of 21. But for some reason, fourteen-year-olds in high school are engaging in this illegal activity. While I understand that adolescence is a rebellious time in one’s life, repeatedly engaging in illegal activity is bound to cause trouble in the perpetrators’ near futures. Aside from the fact that these students vape in the school building, they are disrespecting a public institution that only seeks to improve the lives of its students.
While it is none of my business what goes on in the bathroom when I’m not there, obviously, I can’t help to find it rude and disrespectful to vape in your counterparts’ faces when they’re trying to wash their hands. And please, stop lounging on the sinks. They’re not chairs. While some may be reading this and laughing at my candor, I caution you not to. There is clear truth in my words. Twenty years from now, will you be proud that you wasted class time by vaping when you could have been focusing on your grades and trying to do something worthwhile with your time? Will you be proud to tell your children that you vaped in the high school as a teen? Surely you do not want your children or other youth to follow in your footsteps. While adolescence is not filled with the wisest of choices from most everyone, there is a clear line between common mistakes and reckless behavior.
So, in the most polite way possible, please stop vaping in the bathroom. It’s disgusting.