By Lynne Beauchamp, firstname.lastname@example.org
Sour gummy worm, cotton candy, glazed donut, grape bubble gum…what’s not appealing about these sugary treats for kids? The problem, these are some of the many flavors being offered for sale in an e-liquid.
E-liquid is a liquid put in an electronic cigarette, a battery-operated device that heats the liquid so users can inhale (vaping). The liquid is sold in nicotine strengths of 0-60mg.
A concerned local that teaches in Canton, who wished to remain anonymous, said he has seen an increase in high school students “vaping”.
“Some of the students aren’t able to make it through class without vaping, because of their nicotine addiction.” this teacher said. He added that, because the electronic cigarette comes in all shapes and sizes now, some students can take hits in the classroom without being noticed. He also said students are taking frequent bathroom breaks so that they can vape in private or with others.
A local student, for anonymity reasons will be referred to as “John”, says he found himself in that situation.
A 4.0 high school junior taking college prep classes, John said he started vaping in the eighth grade.
“I was impressionable, and I thought it would be cool,” John said about vaping with friends.
John said his nicotine dependency started with vaping among others; in the bathroom at school or hanging out with friends after school. He realized he had a nicotine addiction when he acquired his own vaping device. He said he would quietly vape in class and said some of the teachers were aware of him doing this but only took the approach of asking him not to vape in the classroom. He said since, the school he attends has a suspension policy for vaping in school.
John said he had a “new circle of friends” among those who vaped. He also realized that his addiction started becoming a problem as he was missing class time. As a junior now, John says he is not vaping as much as he did in the past and tries to focus more on his education.
“Don’t feel like you have to do this,” offered John as advice to fellow students thinking about vaping.
While it is unlawful in the State of Michigan for a minor to purchase vape products locally, John said he could either obtain his product from someone 18 or older or purchase products online. He said that while online stores note that one has to be over 18 to purchase, identification was not required.
According to Lt. Keith Flores with the Washtenaw County Sheriff’s Office (WCSO); as of January 2018, Federal vaping laws for minors forbid anyone younger than 18 years of age from purchasing and using any vaping device or product- including e-cigarettes, vaporizers or e-juice.
Lt. Flores said WCSO will occasionally do “stings” in the county to make sure gas stations and other places that sell tobacco and related products are not selling to minors.
Currently, Michigan state law does not have a minimum age to possess vapor products as it does with tobacco-based products.
In a report, the CDC and the FDA finalized data from the 2011-2017 National Youth Tobacco Surveys and discovered that while tobacco use, as a whole, had decreased for students grades 6-12; electronic cigarettes were the most common method used in this age category*.
There are references about and help on underage nicotine addiction. One source is smokefree.gov. On a local level, SRSLY is a teen-focused youth coalition dedicated to preventing destructive behavior in youth (visit www.5healthytowns.org for the SRSLY link).