A report about the situation of vaping at high schools in the United States
By Jiapeng Lyu, 12th grade Student in Manhattan,NY
E-cigarettes have become extremely popular among adolescents. According to a study in 2019, 27.5% of high school students and 10.5% of middle school students in the United States reported using E-cigarettes. Cullen et al1. Similarly, according to the 2019 National Youth Tobacco Survey8, 69.6% of students report noticing E-Cigarette use in school, with bathrooms and locker rooms being the most common locations, at 33.2%.
Consequently, many different kinds of research were conducted to find ways to reduce vaping, the results mostly recommend educating students about the detriments of doing so. However, in schools where students were well aware of the risks associated with vaping, the deans needed to take a different approach to combat the E-cigarette problem. In order to gather more information about the problem of E-cigarette use in schools in the US, we conducted a survey in a nearby high school and drew a number of conclusions that can be generalized to other schools in the United States.
The school in the survey has an extensive anti-vaping program, but a significant portion of the student population still uses the product. To better understand the situation in the school, I conducted a survey among the students through posting on the official school Facebook page and many of its smaller class-based social media groups. Students were assured about the anonymity of the survey and volunteered to answer the questions in the study.
Fig. 1: Are you aware of the risk/potential damage associated with vaping?
The results of the survey concur with my observation. According to figure 1, 98.7% of the students from the sample report that they are aware of the damage associated with vaping, with 69.8% of the students marking the public health announcements of the school as an important source of this information. Yet, despite this knowledge, e-cigarette use is still a significant issue in the school.
Fig. 2: How many times a week do you see someone vaping? (pre-COVID)
Fig. 3: Have you seen someone vaping or selling pods?
According to figure 2, 51.4% of the students report witnessing E-cigarette use more than twice a week, with 10% reflecting more than 10 times a week. Figure 3 reflects that 76.9% of the students have seen other students using or selling E-cigarettes, and 3.8% of the students report that they use E-cigarettes, with 7.1% who do not use E-cigarettes considering trying them in the future. The real percentage of students that vaping can be higher. In another question, 6.4% of the students chose the answer that only applies to students who vape. This makes the actual percentage of students who vape or are thinking about vaping 13.5%.
Fig. 4-5: 3.8% of the respondents use E-cigarettes, and 7.1% of nonusers are thinking about trying.
Overall, the data shows that although the issue of vaping in the student population is less severe than the national average according to the National Youth Tobacco Survey (27.5%), there is still a significant portion of the student population who are engaged in vaping or plans on doing so in the future.
Fig. 6: Do you know the school policy about vaping?
The study also offers many significant clues about how the government and the schools could reduce E-cigarette use among students. Firstly, policymakers and school officials could make their stance against vaping clearer. According to figure 6, 52% of the respondents reflect that they do not know the official policy about vaping, with only 1.4% of students reflecting that they do not use E-cigarettes because of the school policy. If the Department of Education and the schools can use their websites and public health posters to inform students about their opposition to E-cigarette use(according to figure 7, 85.5% and 69.1% states that these sources helped them learn about the risks associated with vaping, respectively), more students will be discouraged form vaping.
Fig.7: If you are aware of the risks associated with vaping, how did you know it? (please check all that applies)
Fig.8: Where have you seen people vaping? (Check all that applies)
Schools can also target locations where students frequently vape when advertising their policies. According to figure 8, 83.6% of the students report witnessing e-cigarette use in the bathrooms, 67.2% in the hallways, and 45.9% in the cafeteria. If the schools can focus their advertisements in these places, it can ensure most students who vape know these policies.
In addition to informing the student population, the Department of Education and the schools must also enforce their rules. According to the survey, two-thirds of the students who vape report obtaining E-cigarette pods from other students, and a majority of these deals occur in the restrooms. This is likely the case in most schools. If the schools could clearly inform the students about its policies against vaping and enforce those rules, especially against those who sell illicit E-cigarette pods, it can effectively reduce vaping.
Another solution is that the schools and the government can inform the parents and family members to identify. Some may think that parents can easily identify student vaping through tracking the students financially. However, it is actually not possible. According to figure 9, students spend between 30 to 200 dollars a month on vaping. This means that the average allowance, coupled with a fraction of the lunch money, is sufficient to cover the expenses of vaping. This makes it very difficult for parents to detect vaping through sheer finance alone, and the school should not encourage parents to do so. Instead, the schools can teach parents to identify electronic nicotine delivery systems in their child’s possessions: a more effective alternative to identifying e-cigarette use.
Fig.9: If you vape, how much does it cost you every month?
Even if parents observe student vaping, it must be noted that it is not advisable for them to limit the child financially. According to the survey, only 2.8% of the students cite the cost of vaping as a factor that discourages them. This means, at least partially, that e-cigarette users may resort to other ways to obtain the money. This may be through illicit means, such as selling pods to other students. Thus, it is not desirable for parents to limit students financially in order to discourage vaping.
Figure 10. If you vape, how did you get introduced to it?
Instead, the department of education and the schools should encourage family members to influence students against vaping. According to figure 9, the majority of students who vape cite family and friends as the most important reason that caused them to start using E-cigarettes. It is, then, only reasonable that family can also play a large part in helping students quit vaping. If the school could take actions such as informing the parents about the damage of E-cigarettes and asking them to identify and discourage electronic cigarette use, it could reduce the number of students who vape.
1:Cullen KA, Gentzke AS, Sawdey MD, et al. e-Cigarette Use Among Youth in the United States, 2019. JAMA. 2019;322(21):2095–2103. doi:10.1001/jama.2019.18387
2:Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. (2020, December 21). Historical NYTS Data and Documentation. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. https://www.cdc.gov/tobacco/data_statistics/surveys/nyts/data/index.html.
About the Author:
My name is Jiapeng Lyu, and I am a Senior at Stuyvesant high school. I prefer mathematics over the humanities , and my hobbies are running and playing the guitar. I became interested in vaping among high school students when I observed my peers selling e-cigarette pods in the school, and made up my mind to conduct this study after a discussion with a friend who shared that his school has a similar situation.