“The impact on the students and communities we serve, totaling nearly 5 million people, is very real,” Los Angeles Unified School District Superintendent Austin Beutner said in a statement posted to LAUSD’s Instagram in September. ”Los Angeles Unified is taking action to inform students of the dangers and is looking at other options to better protect them against this health crisis.”
According to Live Science, the recent vaping outbreak has led to 1,479 cases of severe breathing problems and lung damage. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reported that 33 people have died, one of them being a 17-year-old, the youngest reported death so far. The California Department of Public Health also urges everyone to refrain from vaping until current investigations are complete.
A Daniel Pearl Magnet High School junior, who has been vaping for the past three years, has decided to quit as a result of the recent outbreak.
“It was a thing. Then I tried it. I got into it and I couldn’t stop,” the junior whose name is not being published to protect their identity said. “(Now) I feel like it’s unsafe, so I kind of quit.”
Juul vape pens are easily hidden because they resemble flash drives and can be charged using a USB port. When in use, the smell doesn’t linger, making it easy for students to use the product at school.
In January, Juul launched the “Make the Switch” campaign that aimed to advertise JUUL vaping products as a safer alternative to smoking cigarettes.
“[Juul is] a smart, really well thought-out alternative to smoking. Make the switch,” A Juul representative was reported saying at a “Make the Switch” campaign, according to the Food and Drug Administration.
“We recognize that youth use of vapor products is a problem that requires an effective and appropriate response from industry and regulatory bodies,” Juul Labs spokesman Ted Kwong said. “We strongly support restrictions on social media marketing of vapor products.”
In October, 240 DPMHS students took a survey on their vaping experience, with 29.1% of them reported having vaped before.
“Every time someone offers (a vape pen), I’ll just go for it,” another DPMHS sophomore said.
Juul, an electronic cigarette company, is accused of marketing e-cigarettes as less harmful tobacco products toward teenagers. According to a warning letter from the Food and Drug Administration, these vape advertisements had teens convinced that using an e-cigarette is a better alternative than using tobacco products, which led teens to believe it was completely safe.
“Young adults are being affected by it, not realizing that they’re being affected,” Principal Pia Damonte said. “It’s still nicotine. It’s actually much worse than if you were to smoke a cigarette.”
Concerned parents and reports of vaping related illnesses also led the Trump Administration to draft a plan to remove flavored e-cigarette products from the market. This plan’s intention is to reverse the epidemic of e-cigarette use that is impacting teens.
As a precaution in September, LAUSD presented information about vaping at its principal meetings. After attending the meetings Damonte informed DPMHS teachers about the health crisis.
Assemblies will be held at DPMHS addressing nicotine and tetrahydrocannabinol in November. In attempts to further inform teenagers, Damonte plans to have two people who work for the FDA and San Fernando City Council come in to help with the presentation.
“Generally speaking, (vaping) should be talked about at school, just to make sure people are aware that Juuling or vaping is not healthy,” senior Ivan Moreno said.
On Oct. 8, Damonte hosted a workshop during coffee with the principal in regards to how parents should be vigilant about e-cigarettes. A canine, also known as Nemo, will randomly come to campus and will assist the random searches, which will help track paraphernalia.
“(Vaping is) a real problem at school,” English teacher Ronald Baer said. “It’s not being kept out of school at all, so it does need to be addressed.”
Though it is clear that vaping is a real problem and many think it should be talked about at school, some students think otherwise.
“I feel like they’re (students) going to do it no matter what,” the anonymous sophomore said. “It doesn’t matter what the school says because you’re going to do it either way.”