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Vaping at OHS?

Elle Forsberg, Writer

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There are many special and sacred high school traditions: friday night football games, prom, the school play, choir concerts. But what about that age-old tradition that always flies under the radar, and usually gets a bad rap? Everyone knows it’s there, there’s no denying it but it’s not something usually advertised. Smoking in the bathroom. OHS teacher Mr. Weeks remembers his high school experience, “When I was in high school smoke would billow out of the bathrooms, you would walk in and there would be a cloud of smoke, there was not even a pretense that people tried to hide it.” Mr. Week’s recollection comes from a time when smoking was a much more socially acceptable thing to do than nowadays. Recently, cigarettes have been replaced in mass by electronic cigarettes, better known as vapes/stoges on high school campuses becuase. the lingering smelly trail of cigarette smoke is an obvious give away to a student looking for a nicotine fix. Yet even still, whether it’s 1977 or 2017 the bathroom is a haven for tobacco fanatics everywhere.

As long as there have been high schools there has been a battle waging between administrators and the students: the adults and school staff running through the silky clouds being blown by mischievous students always one step ahead, or better yet one cloud ahead. In 2013, nearly three times as many U.S. high school kids smoked as puffed on electronic cigarettes. Within two short years, that trend has reversed. Today, almost twice as many high school kids vape as smoke, a new study finds. Middle-school students have an even stronger preference for vaping over smoking.

OHS Assistant Vice Principal Ms. Welsh gave her perspective, “I do think vaping is an issue at our school. During the 16-17 school year we have had 19 tobacco incidents and it’s my job as an administrator to be out in the halls during passing time and walk through the restrooms to be safe and address anything that isn’t right.” Ms. Welsh stresses that she doesn’t want any student that doesn’t want to deal with seeing and being around vapor in the bathrooms if they don’t want to be. It’s true, many students don’t like the presence of vapers and the crowded bathrooms they create. Senior Peter Choi says, “When I only have five minutes to go the bathroom and there’s a huge line of people waiting because of vapers not even using the toilets, it’s pretty annoying.” Practically, people catching a baf can be a drag for people trying to do their business in peace. But before we go casting out these classmates of ours, we should ask what makes the idea of puffing on a candy flavored nicotine juice during class so appealing to a high school student?

An Anonymous OHS Junior describes it like this, “I vape at school mainly because I’ll be really stressed out in a class and I use vaping as a major stress-reliever. You know school can be really hard for me sometimes and vaping just helps, I don’t understand it but I guess it’s just who I am.” Another Anonymous OHS Sophomore says “It’s mostly for the baf, but it entertains me when I get bored in class and it’s funny to get my classmates attention with it.” There’s also something to be said for the adrenaline rush of breaking the rules. “It’s worth it to me because the idea of doing something ‘bad’ and maybe getting caught is actually fun.” says Sophomore. “But I don’t think teachers know enough about vaping to catch on.”

Ms. Welsh shares the view of the OHS administration when she says that she sees vaping as a serious issue at the school and our faculty has taken steps to try and put an end to the situation. Two years ago during the 2014-2015 school year cameras were installed in various locations around the building and specifically near the entrance to the restrooms to monitor who enters the bathroom so that if a report comes in that someone was vaping in the bathroom the administration can have hard evidence that this person was in the bathroom at the time. Also, an anonymous text message/ email service was set-up by the Olympia School District for students to give tips about vaping and other misconduct on campuses. Along with all of this the admins do the difficult footwork of patrolling the halls and bathrooms to monitor student behavior.

However, despite the heavy monitoring and threat of punishment, every day students escape from their desks to find solace in an e-cig. What constitutes a losing battle? Will school staff ever be able to clear the bathroom of vape? If things haven’t changed much since the 70’s when Mr. Weeks was in high school, something has to change in order for our school to finally beat bathroom smoke-breaks. Ms. Welsh finished her statement with the affirmation that, “I strongly believe that students voices are stronger than adults. If you {the student} want our restrooms to be vapor free, tell someone. Anonymous Text Message: 360.529.0938 (Provide school and location), Anonymous email: [email protected]” Yet, on the other side of the fence, the Anonymous Junior Vaper still claims, “As long as I’m going to school, I’ll be hitting my vape in the bathroom, in the morning, during lunch, and in the afternoon.” As a student body, we have few options but to sit back and watch this heated battle play out in our hallways, with our friends, and in our bathrooms.

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Vaping at OHS?