Disclaimer – I’m going to remain anonymous to protect my well-being, especially since I’m not graduating any time soon. Also, despite this being an opinion piece, I don’t intend to slander anyone in particular, but rather use this opportunity to share some valuable information on this harmful, and potentially deadly practice.
“Vaping is not cool,” is written in bold, black letters on a colourful sign situated above the empty space separating the boys’ and girls’ washrooms on the first floor near the main entrance. Why am I starting off this piece with a heavy emphasis on this sign, do you ask? Well, dear reader, one of the most ironic parts of this school, that I’ve personally noticed, is having a sign that speaks nothing but the truth in front of washrooms filled with high schoolers who disappointingly choose to deny it. I’m not referring to everyone who uses the downstairs, and even upstairs washrooms, only the people who deliberately attempt to ruin their health in secret, as a result of peer pressure and the will to be “cool.”
The scariest part about vaping is that it looks safe. In all honesty, if I didn’t know any better, the chemical filled smoke would look like harmless water vapour to me. Referring to the history of vapes, they were invented as an alternative to cigarettes. Vapes don’t require a lighter, don’t leave a person reeking of smoke, and are much easier to hide in schools and workplaces. However, despite being first created as a less harmful and addictive alternative, versions nowadays come with clever USB designs, an abundant variety of “flavours” to choose from, and higher doses of nicotine. I applaud the ingenuity of those who created these dangerous pieces of plastic. I’ve never taken marketing, but I can say for certain that they nailed their target audience: vulnerable teenagers. With the help of dangerous amounts of nicotine, teenagers will be able to vape until they are way too old to even be considered teenagers.
To be honest, as much as I care for the health and well-being of our students at Richview, I mustered up the courage to write here for the main reason of pure annoyance and disappointment. I can say with confidence that the majority of the students here don’t actually vape on a daily basis. Most of them probably tried it at least once, but they refrained from doing it again, and that’s definitely something worth commending. However, that small percentage of vapers easily fills up a small washroom with unsocially distanced bodies and heavy smoke and scents. Break times are either heaven or a nightmare for anyone who chooses to use the washroom. Either for the correct purpose of such a utility, or to hang out, spread germs, and be “cool.” I get that vapes might be hard to acquire for either financial or availability reasons, but please, during a pandemic, don’t share vapes with each other. That would probably be one of the most unhygienic practices in a washroom, following not washing your hands after doing your business. I’m being 100% serious. Not to mention how difficult it has become to simply use a stall, wash your hands, and leave a bathroom without getting dirty looks from a group of addicted alternative smokers.
Vaping incidents at Richview have led me to the conclusion that our world has not yet changed, and that history repeats itself. Frankly, vaping is so new that no one truly knows, in detail, the long term effects of such a habit on a person’s health. However, just by knowing what chemicals a vape contains and hearing the continuous coughs of long-term vapers around me, it has become quite clear that a vape damages, and therefore, potentially kills. Fortunately, I remember at least one thing I learned in health class regarding vapes: the popcorn lung effect. It’s where the chemical present in most vapes shrinks a person’s lung airways as a result of inflammation, essentially suffocating them. Just like cigarette smoking, doctors used to advertise this deadly product until it started killing people. So, who knows, maybe in a few years we’ll finally get a detailed research paper outlining every logical reason why one must not vape. In the meantime, please take care of yourself, don’t fall into the trap of peer pressure, and prioritize your health and values. It’s not too late to finally start reading the sign.