Have you ever walked into a school bathroom and it smelled… like strawberries? Why is that? In the closing years of the 2010s, the rate of minors smoking has drastically gone down and has been replaced by colorful products like Juuls, Marijuana, and puff bars which are intentionally marketed and branded to children and are meant to appeal to a younger, more susceptible audience. With online marketing, ads, and the ease of getting things delivered to your door, more teens are getting hooked on things like flavored Juuls and dab pens since the creation of Juul and other e-cig companies in 2017. The products are portrayed in ads and public websites as a “healthy alternative to cigarettes and cigars,” and the companies claim they help people leave behind harmful tobacco products, such as cigarettes, and to turn to a healthier lifestyle, free of the addictive chemical. However, this rarely works and instead has consumers addicted to another form of nicotine under the guise of a “safe alternative.”
However, the “healthy alternative”, with all of its colors and flavors also hides a dark secret: the nicotine inside each Juul pod that is equivalent to an entire pack of cigarettes. In addition to Juul’s various colors and flavors, many children and teens have become attracted to the product and view it as a safe option, thinking that nothing bad comes from smoking an e-cig. In late 2017, Juul hit the markets and quickly outpaced its competitors, becoming the top-selling e-cig in the United States. It was originally advertised as a safe option for those who wanted to escape the addictions of cigarettes and tobacco, all though it was represented as such in 2017 with 27.3% of teens vaping. The numbers have gone up, as in 2019, teen vaping was at an all-time high with 39% or 5.3 million high school and middle school students using the Juul brand e-cig on a regular basis. While the legal age to buy e-cigs and vapes is 18, the country is slowly seeing a rise in underage nicotine usage. Regulations are being passed that will help prevent underage smoking, yet the rates still haven’t gone down.
Junior Jessie Cruz recounted his experience with drugs in his personal life and work as a metaphorical hole. He warns others to “…not fall too deep into it,” and says that while smoking things like weed/pot is bad for your health it doesn’t have many adverse effects such as nicotine inhalation and withdrawal symptoms. Around his mother’s workplace, he constantly sees people on the streets and sidewalks (usually homeless) who have been addicted to crack cocaine and other drugs for quite some time. He has noted that they are frequently seen walking up and down the streets at night, laughing to themselves. But addiction is no joke.
An anonymous student from Fusion Academy says that he started trying out drugs in the fourth grade when he was prescribed medicine for his ADD. He recounts that from his prescribed medication, he branched out to certain pharmaceuticals and then eventually onto weed (or marijuana) early in his life. He also says that his family never had much experience with them except for his dad and some of his friends. One of those friends convinced him to try some mushrooms and psychedelics, but the student says that he always had good mental and physical control over what drugs he took and how much and that in fact, the hardest drug the student ever did was Adderall, seeking to mimic the effects of other drugs.
Obviously chemicals created in a lab are far more dangerous than those created by nature, but both are still detrimental to your health, as even prescription drugs can become dangerous if abused. The Student warns others that in order to stay safe while using substances he attempts to educate others about fake cartridges and substances that are being labeled and marketed as the real thing, which are usually filled with more dangerous chemicals than normal and are much worse for your body, such as Hydrogen Cyanide which was discovered in fake vape pens by the NYU Winthrop hospital in New York which are capable of causing seizures and irregular heartbeats in large enough doses. He also says, “Drugs can be used as a gateway to good things or bad things, it’s all up to the user, and that you should never feel pressured to do anything you don’t feel is right.” Everyone has different limits (and health issues) and it should be noted that while the student uses drugs on a regular basis others may not have the same reaction and use could lead to serious health issues and side effects. Even though some drugs aren’t as lethal, every drug has a consequence to its use.
Vice Principal Rob Celli states, “It’s everywhere, but it’s not an epidemic.” He says that there are several student codes and regulations that are put in place to stop this behavior before it evolves into a further problem. The state school codes are very strict and provide several solutions to those who have developed a dependence on drugs. Mr. Celli says that the person in trouble goes through events like peer court and getting family intervention in order to fix the problem early and could lead up to a possible suspension if the problem doesn’t go away, and eventually law enforcement would step in if nothing else works. By working closely with the County Office of Education and in school resources, the school administration takes careful measures to prevent as much drug use as they can and to deter future users from a dependence on drugs. Many teens today are unknowingly the prime targets for Juuls and e-cig corporations, mainly due to the fact that since adolescent brains are still developing, we are still susceptible to things that grabbed our attention as children such as fruit flavors and bright colors which the major companies use to market the drugs to a wider audience than the traditional adult.