Teenage Nicotine Addiction Needs Honest Conversation

Cael Clancy, Assistant Sports Editor

It’s no secret that teen nicotine addiction is a nationwide epidemic. We experience it daily.  Walking into bathrooms and smelling that fruity flavor. Looking into car windows and seeing clouds of smoke rise. Watching your friend leave class to hit their vape in the bathroom. You may think it’s crazy that so many people are hooked, but in reality, it’s completely expected. Nicotine is an addictive drug, and it’s no surprise people are dependent.

 The real problem: no one knows how to combat it.

Cigarettes had the same story. It’s been proven by thousands of medical studies and trials, that they have horrible long term effects on your body and lungs. The American Cancer society labeled lung cancer a “rare disease” prior to the 1900s. After mass production and consumption of cigarettes, by 1950, it was the most common cancer diagnosis in American men.

But it wasn’t until 1986 that smoking was officially regarded as harmful, in the 19th Surgeon General Report. 37 years later, we have multiple laws requiring warning labels on cigarette boxes, countless smoke-free campaigns, and a nationwide effort to eliminate cigarette consumption. And while today 23% of the American population smokes cigarettes, it’s a lot fewer than the 45% of the population that smoked in 1954.

The reality is, we can’t wait that long. 

Vaping itself is young, like its users, having been around for less than a decade. Little data has come out proving that people who vape  for 10 or more years are more likely to contract lung cancer. So the question arises, how do we convince young people that what they are doing is actually bad, not just probably bad?

The short answer is, we don’t. It’s natural that young people want to do things they shouldn’t. Kids hate being told what to do, whether it’s their parents or some doctor. Add that feeling of rebellion, to the chemical addiction to nicotine, means we are fighting a war we already lost. 

“The hardest part is that it’s not just an addiction any more. Vaping is now a part of my everyday routine. Every morning, throughout the day, while I’m driving, before bed, and at parties,” one junior said. This person’s real name has been withheld to protect their privacy.

The junior went on to explain that no one in their life has remotely pressured them to quit. They felt no pressure from their peers that what they were doing was wrong. 

Chelsea Andrews, a representative for the Colorado Preventative Services Division, explains that efforts are being made, and although the state is funding programs like UPrise and Forward Together, most efforts locally are left to school administrators.

That same junior doesn’t feel the relatability these programs try to create. “An organization doesn’t know my personal life, I feel like schools and organizations don’t relate well to individuals,” they said.  

With students unable to derail daily habits, and an impossible task created for our school administrators, the solution to the problem is still unclear. Even if bathrooms are monitored, and peer pressure is felt from all directions, students will still find a way, and a reason, to vape. 

“Suffering from a health issue or incident would really be what it takes to convince me to permanently stop,” said the same junior. 

Students have to believe that what they are doing is wrong, and they simply won’t until it’s right in front of them. Kids need to be shown real evidence of the harms of vaping, but according to Cancer Research UK, there is not enough evidence of the real damages of vaping, since it is so new.

We can’t stop vaping. But we can try to stop digging our own graves. A conversation with a friend may be uncomfortable, but those awkward, hard conversations could be life-saving.