California cracks down on teenage e-cigarette use

This past month, over 500 people across the country, including several teenagers, have been hospitalized due to vaping-related illnesses. Of these patients, eight have died, while many others have been diagnosed with severe, permanent lung diseases. As a result, California Governor Gavin Newsom has pushed for a bill to end the use of elec-tronic cigarettes, specifically flavored ones that al- legedly target teenagers. “I would like to sign a billto eliminate the legal use of flavored e-cigarettes,”Newsom said in a press conference on Sept. 16. Oneof the main producers of these flavored e-cigarettesis Juul, a San Francisco-based company infamousfor its flavors, like mango, mint and grape. Amid thecontroversy surrounding vaping, Juul CEO Kevin Burns stepped down on Sept. 25.

Principal Kathleen Laurence sees this ban as a step in the right direction. “I think it’s a reallygood idea [to ban flavored e-cigarettes],” she said.“As much as companies deny that they’re target-ing teenagers and children, when you have flavors like that, that’s what it looks like.” Additionally,Laurence sees the companies having these creativeflavors for long-term profit. “The reality is that, inorder to sell your product, you have to hook the nextgeneration,”she said.

Laurence has seen reasons to worry about the widespread use of e-cigarettes. “We have to beaware of what we’re putting in our bodies,” shesaid. “It’s the unpredictability that you have when you put anything in your body that you don’t knowwhat it’s going to do.”

Gunn has been largely affected by the issue ofvaping. According to the California Healthy Kids Survey, four % of freshmen and 18% of juniors have tried e-cigarettes. On a national scale, the National Youth Tobacco Survey found that between 2017 and 2018, the percentage of high schoolers who current- ly use e-cigarettes has increased from 11.7 to 20.8%, a 78 % increase.

Many vapers at Gunn have been introduced to e-cigarettes by older students. “My sister was vap-ing,” a current student said, “and I borrowed it. It was fun and it tasted good.”

Another student who has quit vaping was alsoinfluenced by an older student. Although they havequit vaping, they say that they have no regrets. “It’sjust part of being a kid and doing [stuff],” they said.However, they can understand why there is such a high number of people hospitalized for vaping-re- lated illnesses. “None of us knew what was going tohappen. No generation before us was smoking this,”they said.

Nonetheless, neither of the students believed that Gunn was doing very much to spread aware- ness of the dangers and consequences of vaping.“They don’t do anything,” the former vaper said.

Although both of these students vape or have vaped consistently in the past, they agree that otherstudents should not do it. “Don’t do it,” the first stu- dent said.

In addition to the health consequences, there are also severe repercussions for being caught. “It’s thesame for alcohol and tobacco on campus,” Laurencesaid. “You get a referral for alcohol or substanceabuse.” Students caught vaping must also make apresentation on the dangers of such substances as a form of community service, and to understand the consequences that e-cigarettes can bring if they were to vape again in the future.