E-cigarettes and Vaping Surges to High Schoolers


Inside a store where items can be found and bought.

Miles Mingo and Thomas Wysocki

School bathrooms: once a place to take a breath between classes has now become filled by clouds of sweet-smelling vapor. The source of these clouds are the vape-pens of students, puffing away in a place where nobody can see them. Nowadays, the common cigarette has been replaced by the vape-pen.

According to the Truth Initiative, a nonprofit group dedicated to spreading the truth about tobacco and its effects states that “Between 2011 and 2017, e-cigarette use significantly increased among youth in high school and middle school. The 2017 National Youth Tobacco Survey found that 11.7% of high school students and 3.3% of middle school students used e-cigarettes in the last 30 days, compared with 1.5% of high school and 0.6 % of middle school students who reported current use in 2011” This trend affects all grades of high school students in the North Clackamas school district, but this trend isn’t just limited to high-schoolers. A study by “Monitoring the Future, which is sponsored by the National Institute on Drug Abuse and administered by University of Michigan researchers, asks nearly 45,000 students in eighth, 10th and 12th grades about their behavior and attitudes around alcohol and a variety of drugs. More than 1 in 10 eighth-graders said they vaped nicotine in the past year, while 37.3% of 12th-graders said they had done so, up from 27.8% in 2017.” With middle-school students, the numbers are much lower in Oregon and practically nonexistent with elementary schoolers.

Our survey from 4 high-school students found that vaping is popular with among Juniors, with former students recalling their experiences; and half of the students being from Milwaukie High School and Clackamas High School; there were also sophomores that refused to comment. There was a preference in mint oil and other flavors ranging from blood orange and grape. When asked about if any of parents knew about the students vaping, most said yes, with one Junior saying no.

During an interview with Ty Carrier, a former high school student and “vaper,” a question came up about why he started vaping. His response was, “It started about halfway in my Senior year when I was with my friends. They all did it, and they kinda pressured me into trying it, telling me it reduced stress. Well, they were right, it did, but I quickly got addicted to it. In short, it was a combination of peer pressure, nerves, and addiction that kept me coming back.” He went on to make a comment relating vaping to eating Pringles, “You can’t have just one.” The effects of vape addiction and vape usage brings a concern to teachers in North Clackamas schools.

When asked about the current situation with vaping in the North Clackamas District, Milwaukie High School Assistant Principal, Scott Roosevelt, said, “If we’re presuming that what people are vaping with is nicotine cigarettes used to present an odor and literal smoke, that would make detection of their use a lot easier. vaping does not do that. And makes it a lot harder to detect.” With this new form of inhalant, it brings staff members in the North Clackamas District to find ways to limit its use on campus.

When asked about the precautions local staff members take with students smoke on campus, Roosevelt mentions the collaboration with The Real Cost anti-smoking campaign, Milwaukie High School has used their posters to discourage students.

He went on to one reason why students might be more willing to use electronic cigarettes rather than regular cigarettes. “The ability for minors, to get their hands on vaping products, has apparently become a lot easier in the last year or two, maybe last year, two years, and I guess what I would say is it, it seems like there is a spike in use that we’re seeing with kids of all ages.”

The nonchalant attitude of students does not differ from that of employees. During an interview with former Clackamas High School employee, Anneke Abma says “I don’t really know how to approach it with a teenager. Growing up, I stayed away from drugs until I was in college. Now I’m seeing teens getting hooked on nicotine as young as thirteen, and they don’t seem to care. Even some of my current coworkers just shrug their shoulders whenever someone asks them about what they’d do if their son or daughter was vaping.”

This increase isn’t surprising when understanding the price of vape pens and cartridges. In Oregon, the prices of vape cartridges per year range from $516 to $605, which is far cheaper than smoking a cigarette pack-a-day, ranging from $2,569 to $2,077. With such a large gap in prices between products, it’s obvious why many teens vape rather than use regular cigarettes.

With technological improvements comes easier access. It used to be that students were unable to smoke in the bathrooms. Now, as vaping becomes more trendy amongst teens, it has become easier for them to get their daily dose of nicotine without anyone knowing. The only sensible solution would appear to be more restrictions on access, such as implementing tighter laws on vaping and the sales of equipment for it. More teens than ever are getting addicted to nicotine, and nobody seems to know what to do about it.