Being a teacher in middle school is always adventurous. When a trend starts, it can take hold of middle schoolers like a boa constrictor. Over the last fifteen years, I’ve seen many trends come and go in middle school. Everything from Kendamas, fidget spinners, and iPods, to rubbing an eraser on your hand until it bleeds (that one confused me). Sometimes these trends are harmless, but sometimes they’re not. This year, the trend in middle school is vaping. I have been utterly shocked to hear that kids have been sent to the office for vaping on multiple occasions. As a community of parents, teachers, and guardians to these young students, we need to do something about it.
Back in my day…
As a middle schooler in the 1980’s, I witnessed many trends – smoking, mushrooms, buckets of hairspray for your bangs, and hair scrunchies. At that time, tobacco companies were highly skilled at marketing cigarettes to middle and high school students. As a middle schooler, I was scared to engage in the riskier trends that might get me in trouble. So I chose to steer clear of those activities. Some may think vaping has only targeted adults. However, like cigarette marketing in the 1980’s, companies are swiftly attracting more young people to try vaping. This report shows that the way vaping is being marketed is shifting to entice younger kids.
What is vaping?
When I asked my 11-14 year-old students to define vaping for me, they described the device as “a cross between a pen and a pipe where the smoke comes out.” As we continued our conversations, I learned that vaping was essentially smoking, but with an e-cigarette device. Surprisingly, 90% of my students genuinely felt it was harmless. They told me that many kids who vape like the way that it tastes and that it’s “the thing to do.”
Why is it trending amongst middle schoolers?
As an educator, this trend is the first one I’m truly concerned about. I asked one of the science teachers what she thought about vaping and she responded that, “the coils in the vapes are giving students high dosages of lead, and some may be experiencing lead poisoning.” She also told me that we don’t know the impact vaping has on the environment. I worry that when kids think something is “cool” and easy to access, it becomes hugely popular. However, teen vaping is not a joke to me. It’s on the rise, and we need to be fully aware that kids could easily access these vapes.
How do students get the vapes?
When you go to smoke shops, you need to be 18-years-old to buy the device. But I found that vapes are easy to get on Amazon. If your children have access to your account (or have access to a credit card) it’s simple to order items online. Another easy way to obtain the vapes is from their home. If you vape, keep it in a safe place where your child can’t easily access it.
The last (and most common) way to get vapes are through friends or acquaintances. Students told me that high schoolers can easily get vapes for middle schoolers. If middle schoolers are getting the vapes from high schoolers, I assume that they must also be getting the cartridges from them too. Honestly, mamas, students spoke to me like it was nothing to be worried about. Like, “What’s the big deal?!!!”
What can we do as parents?
Educate yourself and talk to your child. The more we know about vaping, the more we can inform our kiddos about it. This resource here is a great place to start as a parent! It provides you with ways to start the conversation, questions they may ask you about vaping (with answers), and tips for continuing the conversation to educate you and your child further. I also encourage you to have conversations about the other trends your child may be noticing at their school.