Holy Smokes

Matt Trookman and Cat Wright, Reporters

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Crouching low in the car before school, sitting in the bathroom stall during class, texting an endless supply of 18 year old seniors to get a fix of nicotine. Based upon the multiple interviews conducted by the Chieftain Cheyenne students, this is a seemingly daily occurrence at Cheyenne Mountain and is not expected to slow anytime soon.

Generation Z (born 1994-2014) may be stereotyped as entitled, unmotivated, anti-social, and electronic junkies. But stereotypes aside, this generation is known for ending the consumption of smoking cigarettes.

According to the Center for Disease Control, forty-two percent of teens in 1965 smoked cigarettes compared to the eight percent of teens in 2016. The consumption of cigarettes is at an all time low, but the electronic cigarette has risen as the go-to nicotine device. An electronic powered nicotine device that simulates the act of smoking.

Some popular electronic cigarettes amongst high school students include the JUUL, Vuse Vibe, Fixx, and Mod. In simplified terms, engaging in smoking an electronic cigarette is referred to as (vaping).

While many studies show vaping as containing a shorter list of less harmful chemicals than cigarettes, it is evident that it still is not healthy to be pumping nicotine and other unknowns into one’s lungs daily. Teens do not fully grasp the extent of what effects vaping can have on the body which makes vaping so dangerous.

But vaping has not only taken control over some teens at Cheyenne Mountain High School, it has stretched to the tweens of Cheyenne Mountain Junior High. Mr. Watkins, Junior High principal, shared his thoughts regarding vaping and why it is staring to take over his school:

“I’m not very educated about vaping other than I know it can’t be good for you. I think the reason we’ve seen more of it because kids don’t get it. If you ask kids is it bad for you like cigarettes they probably say ‘no.’ I don’t think they make the connection there.”

In his thirteen years of teaching at CMJH Mr. Watkins has personally seen an increase in the use of electronic cigarettes, the first case fairly recent, only about five years ago. Last year, seven students were suspended, and this year one student has been suspended, a worrisome number for tweens who have not yet been to high school.

Vaping has established its place as both the junior high and high school Student’s substance of choice and is trending at an upward pace.

Two and a half miles from Cheyenne Mountain High school resides Smoker Friendly, a tobacco retail store that is not unfamiliar to many Cheyenne Mountain students.

“I’d say about nine out of ten people that come in are high school students. There’s a particular demographic that I’ve noticed that fits a high school student that lives in this area,” expressed the manager of  Smoker Friendly who kindly asked to keep his name anonymous.

Nine out of ten customers at Smoker Friendly attending Cheyenne may seems high, but numbers rarely lie. The number of students that vape is higher than any professional would deem healthy.  Through a survey conducted by our Cheyenne Newspaper staff, it has been revealed that almost fifty percent of Cheyenne Mountain High School students have admitted to using some form of an electronic cigarette. And of this fifty percent, half vape on a daily basis.

Vaping aside, eight percent of students have smoked a cigarette. Cheyenne’s cigarette consumption average is closely comparable to the national average, and the use of an electronic cigarette in teens today is comparable to the consumption of cigarettes in teens in the 1960s. The use of nicotine may have changed form, but it continues to be a prevalent substance in teen life.

High school students today view cigarettes and electronic cigarettes completely different to users: one smells bad and causes lung cancer and the other smells great and the cancer risks are unknown. Because vaping is relatively new, the risks are unknown to professionals and to teenagers who engage in this common activity, which makes it so dangerous.

Today, some underage Cheyenne students have turned to 18 year old students to purchase vaping products. Vaping users at Cheyenne spend up to forty dollars on a pack of JUUL cartridges while the retail price is less than twenty dollars. Since many students can go through a pack of JUUL in under a week, it is an expensive habit that is hard to break and is even harder on the wallet. With the increasing amount of vaping going on in high school, it is important to get educated on the facts about vaping.

Electronic cigarettes do contain a shorter list of chemicals and have not been revealed to cause as harmful of lung cancer as cigarettes referred to as popcorn lung, but it is evident that they are still bad for anyone’s health, especially teens.

Currently, vaping is less dangerous than cigarettes to medical professionals, but the lack of knowledge surrounding this epidemic makes vaping very dangerous.

Eventually the vaping problem surrounding the Cheyenne Mountain School District will be put to rest or continue to thrive, only time will tell.

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Holy Smokes