Disturbing Trends with E-Cigarettes in Schools

Posted: Dec, 10th 2018




Vaping and e-cigarette use is a growing problem for schools. The devices are small and easily disguisable and the odorless vapors that are emitted disappear within seconds. E-cigarettes are electronic devices that heat a liquid and produce an aerosol. Some e-cigarettes look like regular cigarettes, cigars, or pipes. Some devices look like pens, USB flash drives, or other everyday items. The devices go by many different names, a few of them include: e-cigs, e-hookahs, mods, vape pens, vapes, tank systems and ENDS.  Students are using these devices in hallways, bathrooms, and classrooms.


Schools are attempting to update policies and procedures to keep up with the ever changing habits of students who are attempting to evade these policies. Vaping can include nicotine, marijuana, vaping juices and other chemicals that make the aerosol. Some people may interpret the vaping of “flavored juices” as harmless but studies from the CDC have proven otherwise. Users inhale e-cigarette aerosol into their lungs and also bystanders can breathe in the aerosol when they are in proximity of the exhaled vapors. The e-cigarette aerosol that users breathe from the device and exhale can contain harmful substances, including:

  • Nicotine
  • Ultrafine particles that can be inhaled deep into the lungs
  • Flavoring such as diacetyl, a chemical linked to a serious lung disease
  • Volatile organic compounds
  • Cancer-causing chemicals
  • Heavy metals such as nickel, tin, and lead

The trend of e-cigarette use has caught national attention with the FDA taking a strong stance on the increase in e-cigarette trends. In a recent FDA Statement, Commissioner Scott Gottlieb, M.D., discussed the following trends in e-cigarette use. Almost all adult smokers started smoking when they were kids. Nearly 90 percent started smoking before the age of 18, and 95 percent by age 21. Only about 1 percent of cigarette smokers begin at age 26 or older. Data from the 2018 National Youth Tobacco Survey, conducted of middle and high school students, show astonishing increases in kids’ use of e-cigarettes and other ENDS. From 2017 to 2018, there was a 78 percent increase in current e-cigarette use among high school students and a 48 percent increase among middle school students. The total number of middle and high school students currently using e-cigarettes rose to 3.6 million – that’s 1.5 million more students using these products than the previous year. Additionally, more than a quarter (27.7 percent) of high school current e-cigarette users are using the product regularly (on 20 or more days in the past month). More than two-thirds (67.8 percent) are using flavored e-cigarettes. Both these numbers have risen significantly since 2017.


How can schools combat this disturbing trend? Some schools have chosen to implement camera systems in hallways and vapor detectors in bathrooms or other common areas where students may attempt to use vaping or e-cigarette devices. School policies should include vaping under the existing policy on drugs, alcohol, and tobacco. Some devices do not necessarily contain nicotine so it is important to update the policy to specifically address vaping on school grounds and possession of various vaping devices. Prevention and education is another method that can be implemented to educate students on dangers of using devices and consequences associated with their use.


Listed are more resources or reading material regarding e-cigarettes: