We get it. You vape.



According to Dean of Students Lisa Redding, vaping has become a commonly seen behavior since last September.

The e-cigarette, commonly known as a vape-pen or vape, was first created in 2003 to wean adults off of smoking cigarettes. E-cigarettes, especially the Juul, have become increasingly popular among high school and college students over the last year. It is not uncommon to see discarded Juul pods — cartridges that contain “vape juice” to refill the Juul device — around the high school premises.

According to the Consumer Advocates for Smoke Free Association, the Juul, a popular type of e-cigarette commonly used around Brookline High School, was released on June 1, 2015.

Consumers can legally buy a Juul or other vaping device at age 18, but it is not difficult for younger high schoolers, and even middle schoolers, to buy these products online or from older acquaintances.

According to a senior at the high school who wished to remain anonymous, who we will refer to as Z, the draw to vaping is not all about the feeling one gets from consuming nicotine.

“It’s more about activity of doing these tricks . . . it’s just like ridiculous teenager things, you know, like juuling is also,” Z said.

According to Dean of Students Lisa Redding, there has been an uptick in the number of students who vape at this high school in the past year.

“I think it has caught on everywhere,” Redding said. “We are making teachers aware. Some teachers don’t even know what it looks like. It was new on the scene, really, this September.”


Disciplinary actions

Associate Dean Alexia Thomas said that although disciplinary measures are taken if students are found in possession of a cartridge, administrators are still working to create a common practice to address in-school vaping violations.

According to Dean of Students Scott Butchart, the first step in these cases is to determine the substance they are dealing with.

Graphics by Mia Abulaf/Sagamore Staff
Graphics by Mia Abulaf/Sagamore Staff

“The school has been working on determining whether vaping is sometimes or always associated with illegal substances; nicotine, being one of these, is always forbidden. To determine whether there was nicotine or not, it’s usually marked on the pod or vile. If it’s marked in some way we’re probably going to believe that,” Butchart said.

Dean Redding said that, in the disciplinary system, there is not a code to indicate vaping. Administrators can indicate one of three codes for a drug violation: drugs–paraphernalia, drugs–other or drugs–marijuana. Redding said that drugs–paraphernalia indicates that a student is in possession of a vaping product that does not contain any controlled substances (substance regulated by the government). Drugs–other indicates that a student is in possession of a substance, but administrators cannot determine what it is.  

Cases in which nicotine is found will result in a drugs–other code. For the drugs–paraphernalia and drugs–other violations, Thomas said that the most likely outcome will be a three day in-school suspension.

Redding said that 37H, a Massachusetts general law, states that students cannot have controlled substances in schools, According to Redding, a drugs–marijuana violation comes with the most serious punishments of the three codes and indicates that a student is in possession of THC in some form. The punishment is a minimum three day out-of-school suspension.

“You have to have a hearing with the headmaster with your parents or guardians where the principal can decide whether to keep you out longer depending on how long and how much you had. It is to really consider if you are a threat to the school environment or to others.”

Another student who wished to remain anonymous, who we will refer to as X, said that the disciplinary system should be changed.

“I don’t think that students should be punished and suspended for juuling in the bathroom,” X said. “I think there should be more of a restorative justice type system on why they shouldn’t be doing that instead of just punished.”


Health concerns

Because e-cigarettes are a 21st century invention, vaping research is still in its primary phases. Currently, there is not enough research to prove negative, long-term health risks, with the exception of nicotine addiction. Still, most e-cigarettes and smoking devices have health concerns.

Doctor Vaughan Rees, a lecturer on social and behavioral sciences at the Harvard School of Public Health and the director of the Center for Global Tobacco Control, said that the main concern with nicotine, a substance in most e-cigarettes, is addiction, which can lead to addiction to other health-threatening substances that contain nicotine.

“Nicotine tends to be low risk in terms of its health impact,” Rees said. “So it’s not that nicotine is causing cancer or heart disease or various other health problems. Nicotine, though, promotes addiction.”

Z said that although he has only owned a Juul for a few months, he already feels the effects of addiction.

“I am addicted to nicotine. If I don’t have pods, that will be one of my priorities,” Student A said. “I used friends’ devices starting six months ago, or a little more, and I bought my own like three of four months ago and I’ve been using it quite a lot since.”

On Monday Mar. 6, 2018, the journal Pediatrics released a study that found that adolescents who use e-cigarettes had higher rates of harmful, potentially cancer-causing chemicals in their bodies than adolescents who don’t them. According to the study, higher abundance of these chemicals are contained in the “fruity flavored” cartridges.

According to the Pediatrics article, “The presence of harmful ingredients in electronic cigarette vapor has been established. We have demonstrated that at least five potentially harmful toxicants are found in the body of human adolescents who use e-cigarettes.”

A third student who wished to remain anonymous, who we will refer to as Y, said that vaping may not be as health-friendly as it is often advertised.

“Like with cigarettes, once, people thought they were fine, and then new research came and they’re like, ‘alright these are terrible, this causes cancer.’ I think the same thing will happen with vaping,” Y said.

Rees said that one Juul cartridge contains high quantities of nicotine.

“In a pod, or in a cartridge — a refillable cartridge in a vaping device — there is greatly more nicotine than there would be in a single cigarette,” Rees said. “So you might think of the content of that cartridge being something more like a whole pack of cigarettes than a single cigarette. So when a person vapes, they usually pick up the device and take between three or four to 10 or 15 puffs until they feel satisfied.”


Student education

Even with disciplinary procedures in place, students continue to use Juuls and other devices in school and elsewhere. Z said that students often use vapes because they are discrete.

“I feel like I have control. Right now I can say that I am addicted, but if a new study were to come out that juuling has a bad side effect or I were to break [my Juul] or lose it I am not about to buy another one,” Z said. “They are expensive. That would curb my addiction.”

According to Thomas, Headmaster Anthony Meyer sent out a letter to parents about the increase of student vaping and actions the school is taking to prevent further expansion.

Thomas said that the administration needs to create a way to educate students on the dangers of e-cigarettes.

“Education is key. So what we want to do is write up some legislation for the Student Handbook and then figure out which form of education campaign is beneficial for students, and is that something that we would do starting in our ninth grade health and fitness class, something we would do in advisory, or is it something that also should start in the elementary schools?” Thomas said.

Rees said that although research still needs to be done about the health effects of vaping, we must remain vigilant about possible dangers.

“We don’t want to set off alarm bells, but we absolutely want to make it clear that e-cigarettes are not a good thing for kids, because there’s too much at risk to get caught up in that kind of behavior at this age,” Rees said.