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ROVING TEEN REPORTER
Up in Smoke
Dhathry Doppalapudi | Torrey Pines High School Senior

Dhathry Doppalapudi.
Click to enlarge.

In early August, the story of college freshman Chance Ammirata’s lung collapsing as a result of vaping swept over social media. The 18-year-old Florida International University student had been vaping regularly for a year and a half, which led to a hole and a smattering of black spots on the inside of his lung. After undergoing surgery to reinflate his lung, he partnered with the Parents Against Vaping and E-Cigarettes and started a social media campaign to put “an end to vaping.”

Hearing this story, Brad, a senior at Torrey Pines High School, took it upon himself to quit his own nicotine addiction. “I saw a post [about Chance] on Instagram and it really scared me and I just threw my Juul away in the trash,” he said. “I had tried to quit or take breaks from nicotine in the past and I was never really able to do it, but this was it for me and a few other friends who also vaped.”

It wasn’t easy for Brad to quit, though. He had been vaping for over two years, the first time being when he was in ninth grade when another student offered it to him. Within a matter of weeks, Brad bought his own vape and was using it regularly. “I didn’t think it was harmful at all,” he said. “So many of my friends had them and were doing it so much more than I was, so I felt like if anything bad were to happen, it would have happened to them already, so there was no risk for me. It doesn’t make sense, but that’s how I, and I think how most other teenagers rationalized it.”

Lailee, another senior at TPHS, agrees. “I think that everyone understands how unhealthy it is for them, but they do it anyway,” she said. “A lot of my friends use Juuls or other devices and are really addicted. And basically every teenager that I know has at least tried it once. ”

The sudden and widespread use of e-cigarettes and vapes among teenagers, Canyon Crest Academy senior Smriti says, is a real problem. “So many kids [vape] or have done it, and some do it because they think it’s cool or trendy, and honestly it’s not,” Smriti, a senior at Canyon Crest Academy, said. “Teenagers are Juul-ing literally all the time and getting extremely addicted to nicotine and it’s disgusting and not okay.”

During the two years that Brad was regularly vaping, he would use his vape any chance he could, whether it was while he was driving, hanging out with his friends, or any time he was alone. “It became a part of my everyday routine to the point where when I tried to quit, I started having withdrawals,” he said. “It was the number one thing on my mind.”

Even at school, people are constantly talking about or using their nicotine devices, according to Lailee. “Kids will leave class to go hit their Juuls in the bathroom or go to their cars during breaks to use them. I’ve even seen people do it in class. It’s so normalized at this point that nobody cares or is scared of them.”

Some teenagers are already feeling the negative effects of Juul-ing on their health, Lailee says. “Kids I know are already having issues with their lungs because of this and I just know that the other thousands and thousands of kids using this are going to have major issues in the future. I really wish it wasn’t this way.”

 

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