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A deadly trend

Nicotine: a potentially deadly trend among adolescents

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A deadly trend

Kayla Reyes, social media editor

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In recent years, the use of nicotine products, specifically vaping devices like Juuls and Sourins, has skyrocketed among adolescents. The vast majority of high school students have been introduced to nicotine products in some fashion, and roughly *22% of FHC students use a nicotine product regularly. Nearly *33% have consumed nicotine in some way within the last month, and *88% of students report witnessing another student using nicotine at school.

Nicotine products are illegal to anyone under the age of 18, but this hasn’t kept teenagers from figuring out how to get them into their possession. With vaping being so popular among adolescents, it is only growing as a trend. While e-cigarettes don’t contain as many chemicals as cigarettes, they can still cause detrimental damage to the body.

Juuls, one of the main nicotine products used by teens, were introduced primarily as a resource for cigarette smokers to kick their habit. However, their popularity among teenagers has grown. Truthinitiative.org states that since 2011, e-cigarette use among teenagers has increased from 1.5% to 11.7%. What was once a tool for people to quit an addiction is now sparking it.

According to truthinitiative.org, the amount of nicotine in one Juul pod is equivalent to that of 20 cigarettes., leading to a high possibility of teenagers later turning to cigarettes if they begin consuming nicotine in these amounts.

School nurse Kery Prest believes a big factor in a teenager’s decision to start using e-cigarettes comes from the influence of peers.

“When I think of nicotine, I think of cigarettes, but now [with] the young kids, it’s all about vaping and Juuls,” Mrs. Prest said, shaking her head in disbelief. “[Teenagers] hear about it from friends and they kind of think it’s like the cool trend or thing to do so they kind of follow into that path.”

Biology teacher David Range says it is worth taking into account the ways in which nicotine damage the body.

“There’s things like stunted growth. I think the biggest factor is being chemically dependent on something,” Mr. Range said.

Teenagers likely don’t begin vaping or smoking with the intention of becoming addicted to nicotine, but continued use of nicotine builds a psychological dependence to it. Once teens realize their occasional cigarette or hit of a vape has become an addiction, they’re too far in. They can’t stop.

Human Body Systems teacher Melissa Broadfield says nicotine use can take over a person’s life.

“Addiction basically runs your timetable. So if you have a craving, that needs to be met before you can focus on anything else,” Mrs. Broadfield said. “When you’re without [nicotine], your neurological system goes haywire, you get jitters, headaches.”

The brain is the body part most directly affected by nicotine itself. When nicotine is used by adolescents with undeveloped brains, necessary brain development is stunted.

“[As a teen], you’re still growing, you’re still maturing, and nicotine is considered a drug. Drugs in your body affect the way your brain functions. You’re still in the developmental stage of your brain,” Mrs. Broadfield said. “If you’re under the influence of some type of drug, even just [nicotine], then what that does is that will influence the way your brain cells develop and can influence your brain for your entire life.”

While nicotine itself doesn’t have a vast amount of negative health effects, the chemicals in vapes and cigarettes do. Cigarettes are known to cause cancer, breathing problems, and strokes, but the long term effects e-cigarettes are not yet known. Mr. Range notes that, regardless of which device people use to consume nicotine, they’re putting harmful chemicals into their body.

“[Nicotine] is a stimulant like caffeine, but the adverse health effects are from the carcinogens,” Mr. Range said. “And, the scientific community is still researching what is going to happen with all the vaping. [People] thought cigarettes were okay at first too, and obviously we know that’s not the case.”

Adolescents are using e-cigarettes without knowing the potential health effects they could be facing later in life. With exposure to nicotine use as a teen being almost unavoidable, knowing the true effects of nicotine can ensure that more teenagers don’t take part in a potentially deadly trend.

Avoiding using nicotine protects against all the negative aspects that come along with it.

“Young kids do get curious about [nicotine], just like other drugs,” Mrs. Prest said. “But if you never start, it’s always the best prevention to quitting, just like any kind of habit.”

 

*From a survey with 99 FHC students

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