Is the Administration Working Harder or Smarter on the Vape Crisis?


Sourced for reuse by Wikimedia Commons. Countless teens are addicted, but is there anything different we can do to help?

**Due to sensitive information, the student’s identities will be left confidential.

Bathroom visits aren’t just about answering the call of mother nature anymore.

They also are about blowing some fruit-scented clouds. Perhaps we all know the classic flavors: mango, cool cucumber, fruit medley, mint, etc. Society tries to deny it, but it’s true:

Kids are super addicted to vaping.

“It’s across the nation,” Dean of Students Julie Attias commented.

One student can confirm this claim.

“I feel like I need a hit every day,” said one anonymous student.

Most of the student body has overheard someone asking for pods or juice, or maybe even walked in on a couple of people vaping in the bathroom.

Many have also heard about their peers getting suspended for being caught with a Juul, and being suspended again for the same reason.

It’s usually the same people getting in trouble for vaping; that means the solution–suspension–is probably not working. I know of several freshmen and sophomores that have been suspended at least once for vaping. Something is perhaps not working right.

It’s clear that these kids don’t need stricter punishments; what they do need is some help getting over their addiction. Sure, many have made mistakes by getting into vaping, but punishing them won’t help in the long run.

“Yes, 100 percent [I am addicted]. [Vaping] is just something to do,” said another anonymous student.

“I know a lot of kids that are addicted. I see them going out to vape quite a bit,” commented one student on their peers.

In terms of helping students with addiction, Attias stated that she always asks what needs to be done in order to help them; there’s just a lack of willingness to get better that’s the issue. Attias also states that only so much can be done at school, and it also relies on the parents of the children at home.

However, she believes education is the solution to the vape crisis.  

“I think the more education, the less we’ll see,” Attias said. “It’s a fad right now that everybody wants to try…They think it’s harmless, but [the students] don’t realize how dangerous it is.”

Teaching students how harmful vaping can be is a primary goal for the school administration.

“Sometimes [students] need to get caught in order to get help,” Attias added.

Despite how bleak the vape crisis looks, the solution may be just around the corner.

Portugal had a raging drug problem in the 1980s & 1990s. Portugal tried enforcing anti-drug laws and harshly punishing the addicted. It still didn’t work, so the government tried something different.

According to Time, Portugal decriminalized all drugs in 2001, and instead of enforcing harsh punishments, addicts were sent to a commission consisting of a doctor, lawyer, and social worker.

Between 1998 and 2011, the number of people in drug addiction treatment and rehabilitation increased by 60%. The prison population almost halved, from 44% for drug violations in 1990 to 24% in 2013.

Perhaps if Air Academy High School (and D20 as a whole) employed a similar system, it could help students.

Attias noted that “the supports with [nicotine] use really have to come from home. So they need to be talking to their parents about seeking the help there. We can recommend [help], but we can’t require it.”

For students struggling with an addiction to vaping, Attias concluded by saying that counselors offer confidential assistance with students and can give them addiction resources to get further help.

To speak with a guidance counselor, head to Student Services.

After hearing about help being offered by the counselors, I decided to inquire about this to AAHS counselor Sean Brotherton.

“I do think that we have a pretty serious issue with students getting addicted to nicotine using Juuls, electronic cigarettes, things like that,” stated Brotherton on addiction at this school.

“If [the student is] addicted to [e-cigarettes] or something else, the best ways to get through that addiction are through proper supports and those supports typically include: Counseling, deterrence from access to those products, and it takes time to be able to clear the body from the actual physical addiction,” Brotherton also commented on helping students drive away from their addiction to nicotine.

I asked Brotherton what his thoughts were on more funding into more proper counseling for addiction instead of more discipline and security guards, and he stated, “To be honest, I think it needs both, you need the discipline and deterrence side because that works for some people. But you also need more education, counseling, and counseling is always available, [whatever it may be], counselors are always available to talk. The toughest part is sometimes for people to come forward to [ask for help and guidance].”

Brotherton also stated that the only two ways a conversation with a counselor is not going to be kept confidential is if the student is at risk for self-harm, or at risk to harm others.

“This does not apply to nicotine addiction, however, that would be essentially something that would probably be encouraged to work out” with the student, Brotherton noted.

“We ask how can we build the scaffolding to help you get from to where you’re at right now to where you want to go and a lot of times that would include parents, or including some sort of supports,” he said. “The goal is 100 percent not to get someone in trouble, it is to provide the support to get to a better place.” 

If one decides to get help, the student and counselor would work together with the student, to help the student reach their goal. The counselors are available at any time they need to talk, and a student can speak to any counselor they feel they feel comfortable with. As the counselors work as a team and “want what is best for the students.”

The counselors are a great place to start if one is addicted to nicotine and vaping, one just has to build up the courage and ask for the help they need to get out of their addiction.

Perhaps right now, the school and the administration have all the tools they need to reduce the vape crisis to a minimum, all the administration has to do is use them to their advantage, and promote speaking to counselors more, and perhaps invest more into proper counseling and services for the students. But the journey to recovery, at the end of the day, is up to the student.

Personally, the students who are addicted to nicotine and vaping need more support and counseling more than discipline, considering addiction is a mental condition one can not simply overcome alone, or by being shamed with a suspension. Some student obviously need some discipline, and it works, but addiction certainly does not have a one-size-fits-all solution. Each person’s addiction is different, because every person’s mind works differently and not interchangeable, as shown by several students that relapse. There still is an opportunity for help at our school if one truly needs it for a new start, and a journey to sobriety.

If you or someone you know is addicted to nicotine or vaping, it is highly recommended to speak with a counselor at school.