The Rise of Vaping: Students, teachers, administration grapple with consequences of rising e-cigarette usage

Akshay Vadlamani | The Chronicle

In the haze of rising concerns, the undeniable truth about the perils of vaping has cast an unsettling cloud over today’s youth.

E-cigarettes, also known as vapes, are battery-powered devices that heat a liquid into a vapor that can be inhaled. The vapor may contain nicotine, the addictive drug in tobacco, flavoring and other chemicals. Although the sale of such products in Ohio is prohibited to persons under 21 years old, many students still find access to them.

Vapes often come in a variety of flavors and form-factors, making them appealing and easy to conceal for the current generation of young adults. According to the National Center for Health  Statistics, 11% of adults ages 18 to 24 years old use e-cigarettes. From 2017 to 2018 alone, there was a 10% increase in adolescents using e-cigarettes.

Although the long-term health effects of vaping are still being studied, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) reported that in addition to nicotine, which is highly addictive and can harm brain development, the chemicals that e-cigarettes produce are linked to lung disease, heart disease and cancer.

The recent increase in the usage of e-cigarettes has brought with it an idea that students who engage in vaping may simply be bad students or kids who make uninformed decisions, but there is often more nuance as to why a student may decide to begin. Many factors, whether emotional, environmental or social, tend to influence the choices that a student might make.


A junior at Mason High School (MHS) began vaping when a group of friends peer pressured them into trying it. From that point onward, the student said they were caught in a cycle of vaping until pictures were taken of their group using vapes in a prohibited location and cops caught them. The student said that after being confronted by the cops, their parents had a personal conversation with them and they stopped vaping from that day on. 

The student also said they experienced seeing one of their friends go through a similar situation. Their friend was introduced to vaping through a romantic relationship, and after a while, became reliant on the vape due to the nicotine content. The student said their friend realized the adverse effects of vaping on their health, like shortness of breath and increased coughing, but that they could not stop immediately due to the addictive nature of the activity.

For the student, it was a difficult experience watching their friend continue to engage in a dangerous activity. Ultimately it was the student’s decision to stop worrying about factors they could not control, even if it meant that they had to watch their friend go through their own challenges.

The consequences of vaping affect students in many different ways, whether it be physical, emotional, or social. In any case, the struggle with vapes often becomes more than just a bad habit, but rather a shared negative experience in which all students involved experience hardship.


Although many students are introduced to vaping through peer pressure in friend groups, there are many other reasons students across the nation have decided to begin vaping. With the increase of mental illness, with one in five U.S. adults experiencing mental illness, according to the National Institute of Mental Health, many students see vaping as an escape or a quick solution to their problems. Students also view vaping as a way to maintain certain desirable body weights or as an effective way to combat insomnia. 

A senior at MHS attributed their start to vaping to influences at home and their mental state when they began. The student grew up in a household where smoking was relatively normal, and they said that this developed a familiarity with nicotine that translated to vaping. Another significant factor that led the student to vaping was the insecurity they felt with their body. After doing online research, the student found that vapes were supposedly effective appetite suppressants, which led them to start vaping. 

These students are not alone in their exposure to vaping, paralleling a national trend among young adults. Despite the fact that the activity is illegal for high-schoolers and prohibited on school grounds, MHS administration has still had to combat students carrying e-cigarettes in school.


MHS Assistant Principal Dan Distel has witnessed the rise of vapes firsthand. Distel said that despite the initial struggle to identify how vapes look and their effects on students, the overall approach to preventing the abuse of such products in school has remained the same as when cigarettes were dominant. 

“I don’t know that our approach changed necessarily,” Distel said. “We weren’t very educated, and oftentimes things would be confused for being USB chargers. This resulted in us having to just kind of relearn a little bit about what this product specifically is.”

Regarding the disciplinary process for vaping, Distel said that MHS administration operates on reasonable suspicion, which means that if a teacher believes that a student may be in possession of a vape on school grounds, they have the right to report them to administration who will meet with the student and take appropriate action. Distel said that this approach has helped regulate inappropriate usage of vaping on school grounds.

“We certainly have seen where kids have had some significant addiction issues,” Distel said. “Families respond really well when they are provided the information about what this stuff is, and there are resources out there that can help you with addiction, regardless of what kind of addiction it is.”


Stores that sell vapes have become widespread, and due to the products being marketed towards young adults, some vape stores have placed themselves strategically in areas where there is school traffic. This has given many students easy access to vapes, especially due to the lack of identification enforcement at these stores. Students have also begun to sell vapes themselves through online platforms like Snapchat. 

A senior at MHS got their first vape on Snapchat, and for the year they vaped, they described their experience as an on-and-off relationship that led to a detriment in their health. The student said they saw many of their friends spend thousands of dollars on vapes with the mentality that the negative effects of vaping are insignificant compared to the disasters occurring in the world. 

The senior also said that the greatest threat of vaping is not the vapes themselves, but the addictive habits vapes perpetuate. The student said that even if students did not experience direct health issues after vaping, it sets up patterns for potentially dangerous habits and makes students more vulnerable to worse addictions in the future.

Health teacher Gary Popovich has been teaching at Mason since 1993, and has seen both the downfall of cigarettes and the rise of vapes. Popovich said that the educational system, while important, can only do so much. With all the available information online regarding the risks of vapes, Popovich said that students who want to try vaping will only stop once they realize the harm for themselves.

“Unfortunately, most kids think they can’t be hurt, but it only takes that one time,” Popovich said. “You learn through life experiences, and sometimes the way you learn the most is to live in it.”

Popovich also emphasized the greater difficulty that students today face navigating their lives due to the multitude of dangerous drugs that are in easy marketable forms, just like vapes. Popovich attributed the danger to the ignorance that a student could demonstrate when making a decision regarding whether to use something they do not know all the details about, leading to possible irreversible consequences.

“It’s so much harder for [this] generation to grow up,” Popovich said. “You’re exposed to danger because you have so many more options, and most of the options can be more lethal and can become deadly.”


Distel said that despite vapes being widespread amongst adults and youth today alike, the illegality of them among teenagers is something that cannot be ignored. However, he also emphasized the importance of understanding the various root causes of students choosing to vape. Distel said he believes that administration should focus their efforts on supporting kids and families who have been affected by vaping.

“For kids under age, those things are explicitly prohibited in the law,” Distel said. “When families are saying, ‘Hey, I need some help, I think my kid has a much bigger problem than I realize,’ that becomes where we try to come alongside and give parents some support and say ‘Hey, here’s some resources for you. Here are some things that have been effective for some families, here’s how we can help.’”