Too Juul for School: A Closer Look at the Use of Nicotine Products at Needham High School

November 2017 (Volume 68, Issue 2)

By Tim Melvin and Lily Judge, Staff Writers

In the past year, Needham High School and schools in surrounding communities have witnessed a spike in the useage of vape and e-cigarette products. These devices, which emulate the experience of smoking tobacco or marijuana, use water vapor instead of smoke. Vaping is particularly common among high schoolers because it is marketed towards younger consumers as a less risky, even healthier, alternative to smoking. However, there are still many risks and unknown factors surrounding this practice—the danger of nicotine addiction is still present, and many vapes contain unknown, potentially carcinogenic chemicals.

Principal Sicotte has shared his concerns with us on the topic of vaping at NHS:

Hilltopper: When and how did you first become aware of the vaping situation at NHS?

Mr. Sicotte: E-cigarettes are becoming increasingly common throughout the country, and because they are primarily marketed towards adolescents, it was just common sense that NHS would see a rise in the use of those products as well.

H: How have vape products affected the students at NHS?

S: I don’t think NHS is different from any other school or location. What’s different about vapes is that they’re easy to use, easy to use without getting caught, and easy to use with other products. It’s also specifically marketed towards teens, making it seem like it’s an okay thing to do. Establishing dangerous habits with vapes, even just using the juices, can have an impact—often, it’s not too long before somebody with a juice-vaping habit starts using nicotine or THC.

H: Have you discussed student vaping with faculty at all? If so, could you share any of what was said?

S: When we sent the parent email, we also sent an email out to staff, but there was no meeting scheduled to talk about it in person. Our goal was mainly to raise awareness among the NHS staff.

H: How did faculty respond to this?

S: Seeing images like a Juul was surprising for many of the staff members, as they did not know that vapes looked like ordinary objects, and they appreciated the information.

H: How has school administration dealt with students who have been caught using and/or selling these products in school?

S: Our approach is to always take the situation and turn it into a learning experience; there also comes a consequence in addition with this situation. We want to communicate with students that while this can seem okay, you can actually get in trouble with the law. We didn’t want that to be a surprise to students.

H: Has school policy been altered in any way or has previous school policy been sufficient to address the vaping issue?

S: A few years back, we changed the language of our tobacco and drug policy, and broadened it to include e-cigarettes, so that was sufficient for this year’s events.

H: Do you have any predictions for the future of vaping at NHS?

S: Around the country, NHS included, there will be a lot of use of these products due to marketing and ease. Until there is widespread backlash against e-cigarettes and vapes, which won’t be for a while, we won’t see a decline in use. If a parent takes out a vape and starts using it during my kids’ soccer games—if that seems acceptable, we have a ways to go to shift people’s mindsets. Until then, the best thing to do is educate and communicate.

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