Vaping and juuling have been dubbed an ‘epidemic’ across America, and Friendswood is no exception. With assistant principals, primarily at the junior high and high school levels, seeing an increase in confiscations of Juuls and other electronic cigarettes, Friendswood ISD decided to host a seminar at Friendswood High School on Dec. 12 to educate the community on the dangers of these substances/devices. Approximately 70 people were in attendance.
“We’re seeing [juuling and vaping] hit kids from every group – even our high-achieving kids. We have enough data to say it is an issue because our assistant principals are dealing with it several times a week,” Diane Myers, assistant superintendent of secondary education, said. “FISD wants us, as a community, to come together – schools, parents, students – and gain knowledge about juuling and vaping.”
At the seminar, Bay Area Alliance for Youth and Families Coalition Manager Amanda McLauchlin spoke on what Juuls and e-cigarettes are, what is in them, how students are obtaining them, what they look like in various forms and why they are dangerous.
“We want you to feel empowered with lots of information,” McLauchlin said to the audience. “Is it dangerous [to vape]? I think it is.”
Not everyone in the audience agreed with McLauchlin.
“People have a negative outlook on it because they misunderstand things,” FHS ninth grader Robert Osburn said. “A lot of adults don’t know you can get it without nicotine; they think it’s going to ruin your life.”
One of the people Osburn said he believes has this misconception is his mother. She was also in attendance.
“I came tonight because I want to get more information about vaping – the positives and the negatives,” Cheryl Osburn said. “Right now, I have no positive associations with juuling or vaping: I think it’s too close to cigarette-smoking. The kids are vaping now and they don’t think it’s as bad as cigarettes, but I think they have been misled.”
McLauchlin addressed this issue. She said while most teens and young adults think it’s a healthier alternative to smoking, it is still unsafe. She read aloud facts stating one Juul pod is equivalent to smoking one pack of cigarettes. She continued by saying a lot of Juuls contain nicotine, and some e-cigarettes actually can be manipulated into housing illegal substances such as date-rape drugs (also known as roofies) and tetrahydrocannabinol (THC), the primary chemical in marijuana.
Juuls and Vapes are not as easily detectable due to their lack of a strong fragrance and easily-dispersed smoke/vapor. Even still, because these devices are not allowed on campuses, students have found alternative ways to hide them from teachers and staff. McLauchlin showed the audience some of these contraptions she has found are sold in smoke shops. Examples included e-cigarettes that looked like flash drives, coke bottles and pens.
“If you are creating these for people who are former smokers who are trying to quit, then why do you need to hide it as a pen?” McLaunchin asked. “This is a multi-billion-dollar industry, so we’re following the money.”
McLaunchin stated these e-cigarette companies are targeting 18 to 24-year-olds by using social media influencers to promote their products, illustrating their ads with bright colors and happy faces, and marketing with “fancy flavors” to appeal to youth. In effect, pre-teens and teenagers are also using the products.
“On YouTube, they’re showing adults doing it and they’re making it look cool,” Cheryl Osburn said. “They try to make it seem like it’s not addictive and it’s not as bad as cigarettes.”
McLaunchin continued to argue the dangers of juuling and vaping, then opened the floor to FHS assistant principals Paul Tucker and Glen Newsom who talked about the problems they have noticed at FHS. Next, Officer Jason Ives spoke on potential legal implications of juuling and vaping on school property.
The night concluded with all speakers taking questions from the audience.
“We want to make sure our parents have this information so that, as we’re dealing with it at school, they can be dealing with it at home,” Myers said. “We’re going to continue to talk to our kids about it. We don’t want to just discipline them; we want to teach them. We’re also looking to add more information and resources to our SEL website to help keep this issue at the forefront because we know when we get behind something, we can make a change.”