Electronic cigarettes are battery operated devices that typically contain nicotine, flavoring and other chemicals. These were originally created to help adults struggling with a smoking addiction. The vapor from these devices have since found their way into the lungs of high school students below the legal smoking age. In schools across the nation, including Valley High School, vaping has affected our classrooms, faculty and staff, and school environment as a whole.
For some students at Valley, vaping began as an activity practiced outside of school, but with developing technology, forming addictions, and ever changing social norms, it is beginning to invade our classrooms. One student, who asked to remain anonymous because she was concerned about consequences of sharing her experience, began smoking when she was 13 years old, due to the pressures and influence of friends. She has since become addicted and openly smokes her e-cigarette in class when teachers are unaware, despite rules prohibiting this. “Around the time I was 14, I started smoking both cigarettes and mods. I loved everything about vaping and getting a buzz… Eventually, I became dependant on it and now I don’t like to go an hour without it.” She reiterated wanting to quit but being unable to, as a result of stress, “Sometimes I’ll literally have a breakdown if I don’t have juice or if I don’t charge it the night before.”
With little attempt to hide this new, almost unrecognizable product, various students will keep their devices in a place that is easily accessible. Although if caught, the administration will confiscate the items for the parents to collect. The same student revealed that she doesn’t go through a lot to hide what she does, “I keep my mod in my hand or pocket, sometimes around my neck.” The vaping industry is constantly evolving, teachers are oftentimes unable to recognize these new products specifically designed as something else. Juuls are another type of e-cigarette designed to look like a USB flash drive. For students, hiding the devices in plain sight has never been easier, it’s the expelled vapor they have to worry about.
During school hours, the most common place for students to vape is the school bathrooms. Male students confess to it being difficult to use the bathroom during certain times of the day due to it being so crowded, “I used to vape in the bathrooms until I got caught twice. Now, it’s impossible to walk into the bathrooms without getting a nicotine buzz from everybody vaping in there.”
While the men’s bathroom is overcrowded with students vaping, the women’s bathroom is the opposite. One female student claims the girls bathroom is rarely used for vaping, “The girls bathroom is never crowded because of vaping. Sometimes I’ll hear girls quietly hit their mods in the stalls, but they try to conceal it. It isn’t done openly.”
Administrators have noticed the increasing issue of students vaping in bathrooms and on campus, “I feel very sad students vape at all, especially in school… It is a big problem we face here at Valley High, but it is also a big problem across the country,” said Valley resource officer Uati Afele.
Another student at Valley, who began smoking during her sophomore year, claims she would never smoke in school, “I usually only vape with friends. Sometimes I’ll do it when I’m alone, but I’ll make sure to take videos and send them to friends. We have vaping competitions to see who can do certain tricks the best.” When obtaining the products to smoke, she admits to going into smoke shops, “I go to smoke shops that don’t ID. The first time I went to my regular smoke shop with my friends, they asked our ages. We told them we’re 16 and 17. They didn’t care and continue to sell to us.”
From a teacher’s perspective, vaping during class can be seen as a juvenile act, “It is disrespectful to the school and it is a sign of rebellion and immaturity,” said Terry Jensen, Valley High humanities teacher. When handling this type of behavior the first time around, Terry doesn’t report the student, he handles the situation in his own way, “First they got the stink-eye then came the public shaming and a small ‘coming-to-Jesus’ meeting about respect and appropriate behavior. Afterward a smile and a kind word to let them know I still like the person, just not the behavior.” Terry also mentioned that smoking used to be allowed in the early days of Valley High, until a disrespectful act put an end to it all. One student walked past a classroom and flicked a lit cigarette on the carpet, “Student respect for the school and the staff as well as the staff respect for the students is what makes Valley work.”
While some students openly vape in class or in the bathrooms, another particular student doesn’t resort to that option himself, “I don’t go to the bathroom with a group of guys huddled over, hitting their Juuls. I never do it inside and I never smoke in class.” This student began smoking cigarettes when he was 12 years old. In attempts to help him quit, his older brother bought him an e-cigarette. Unfortunately, it couldn’t help him kick the addiction, it just formed a new habit he has to satisfy constantly, “Vaping is a habit. It’s a tick, an oral fixation, an obsession.” Whether you vape to do tricks, crave the nicotine buzz, or want to quit smoking, one thing is for sure: the consequences of participating in these behaviors could end up being detrimental to your health.
Published on November 5th, 2018.
A Once Mighty Lake
The Antelope Island experience.
by TANNER HALL
Utah is a salty, dry, and dreary place. It is dead and void of life - a desolate wasteland - where the people are as dusty as the landscape. Its historic landmarks and national parks aren’t much to look at, and are lackluster at first glance.
As we left the school, we began moving deeper into the valley. As we did, the worse it became. There were fewer buildings and the people were scarce. It felt like we were truly in a deserted place. We arrived at the first destination: a bubbly beach. This was the entrance to Antelope Island. As we walked, it smelled of sulfur. We were told that we were walking on larvae sacs, and there wasn’t much to see in my mind.
As we approached the next location, I glanced out the window to the bleak wasteland to see a buffalo and her young calf. I noticed a flock of seagulls soaring above and an antelope grazing across the mountain. The once dead, lifeless place suddenly became a beautiful home to so many species of life.
I began tossing everything else out of my mind and put myself in the moment. I then noticed the amazing place we were so blessed to be at. My eyes began to wander as they came upon different unique plants, striving to survive. I noticed the bountiful gang of buffalo, feeding and resting in the bright sun.
We arrived at the island and began hiking to gaze at the beautifully diverse landscape. While on the hike, the rock formations were unlike anything I had ever seen, one even resembling a skull. While climbing to peer over the lake, I noticed the receding shoreline. A mighty lake was now shrunken, not as great as it once was.
After visiting the island, we headed to lunch. I sat down with Sharon Jensen and talked about my experience at Antelope Island. We talked about how even if at first some things may not be the most attractive, once you spend time with it, the beauty always shines through.
I can say that, in my experience, it was one of the best, most wholesome Friday activities that Valley has conducted. Utah may not have the most obvious beauty, but there is no other place like it.