Clearing the Smoke on Vaping

Kathryn Williams, Staff Writer












Sign outside of a Vape Shop in Livonia, MI

One of the most well-known anti-tobacco campaigns, The Real Cost, has stated that major tobacco companies which produce cigarettes profile where they sell their products to sell them near inner-city high schools; The Real Cost states “Big Tobacco” targets who they consider to be their easiest targets.

Hearing this, lead me to think about how many smoke, vape, and hookah shops any student at Divine Child could see on their car ride to school and if it were all high schools and not just ones in the inner-city. I decided to check a digital map, and there are eight smoke shops within one mile of Divine Child High School.

With so many of these shops within walking distance from Divine Child High School, at least a few students are bound to have products from there.

Michigan laws state the age of 18 is the legal age to buy tobacco products. For many students across the U.S and in Michigan, that is not the case. According to students at Divine Child High School, it is rare for them to be turned away by the workers in the vape shops in and around Dearborn, Michigan.

According to K, a student at Divine Child High School in Dearborn, she says she has gone to a large number of the shops in Dearborn, Michigan. I questioned whether or not the local shops ask her for identification to prove her age. She says “It depends on which one you go to, but for the most part they do not.”

When this was brought up to another student at Divine Child, J, he said, “I will give someone who looks older than they really are money to go inside and buy me one. This plan has never failed me.”

According to the Michigan Laws, it is illegal to sell tobacco products, which includes vapes, to anyone under the age of eighteen, but K continues with the statement that they will also try and sell other products illegal for their age, not just the electronic cigarettes they specifically ask for. She states, “They do offer other drugs. If it’s from a store, they just offer other vapes or juice with higher nicotine, but sometimes they offer things like wax pens.”

As opposed to other types of electronic cigarettes, wax pens do not use nicotine. They vaporize the active molecules in marijuana oils, and can have a less intense “high” effect on the body as just rolling and smoking regular marijuana.

Marijuana oil, or CBD Hemp Oil is legal to buy and distribute in the state of Michigan. This is because law officials say it has a number of uses without being used as drugs or for a way to get “high.” However, you have to be of age 21 or older to purchase this product in the state of Michigan.

As of right now, there are no rules or regulations on the consumption or selling of electronic cigarettes like there are for regular cigaretttes. However, it is illegal for minors to purchase these products because they are considered, by law, a tobacco product. However, for the brands already on the market at the time of the FDA’s decision on e-cigarettes, they do not have to follow these rules. The FDA plans to have the companies who currently slip through the cracks of the system regulated.

Although that is the most common response by other states, according to the PublicHealth Law Center, as of right now, the state of Michigan has no comment on anything regarding regulations for the packaging of electronic cigarettes, restrictions in place for retail or youth access, and how the state is choosing to define electronic cigarettes.

Students in middle schools and high schools all around Michigan are carrying their vapes with them, on and off campus. For some students, they have grown so attached to their vapes that they cannot leave home without it.This problem has gotten to the point where students are even getting nicotine poisoning on school grounds.

On October 19, 2018, USA Todayreported the FDA’s new campaign to target teen vaping. They are placing pamphlets in 10,000 high school restrooms. Scott Gottlieb, the FDA commissioner, described the use of vapes as an epidemic. He states the reasoning behind putting the pamphlets in the bathrooms is because of the teenage peer pressure to vape in high school bathrooms.


A Couple of the Pamphlets that are to be Issued to 10,000 High School Restrooms

Many students fail to care about the consequences of vaping, since Michigan laws have no penalty for those minors who vape, and people brag about it as being so much better for you than regular cigarettes. Last June, a student at a high school in Canton overdosed and nearly died while vaping. Without being aware of what was in the vape juice sold to them, they inhaled rat poisoning and tetrahydrocannabinol, which, according to Live Science, is the most active ingredient in cannabis.

The FDA also has been conducting tests on major vaping companies, which are currently popular among consumers. One of them tested positively for diethylene glycol, which is a poison found in antifreeze. According to the Agency for Toxic Substances & Disease Registry, or the ATSDR, diethylene glycol can break down in your body and crystallize. These crystals can collect in your kidneys and affect their functions. It can also affect your acid/base balance, nervous system, heart, and lungs.

In an email interview with a doctor at Beaumont Hospital in Dearborn, Michigan, Dr. Derek Bair mentions, “Currently, nicotine is not the only substance being vaped on a regular basis, marijuana in the form of liquid concentrate of tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) is available with prescription in some states and legal for recreational use in others. Teenagers are already using this product as well. This is a whole other subject with other health hazards.”

Many people are pushing towards stricter laws statewide over the use of vaping, but the Michigan government still has no comment whatsoever. Other parties, however, are pushing for schools to treat vaping as if it were any other drug. The Twitter account of @vape_noescapestates, “In most schools, e-cigarettes have become a well known epidemic and many administrators are trying to stop this problem instead of just stiffening penalties. One solution is to establish a school-wide protocol on vaping as it falls under the policies of drugs and alcohol.”

According to the Michigan Education Association, or the MEA, schools in Michigan are starting to ban flash drives, since one of the most popular vape design looks almost exactly like generic flash drives.


Juul design, which has led to the banning of flash drives in some schools

The FDA commissioner says the FDA is willing to target companies like Juul because they are more accessible to teenagers. He also says the Juuls are not as appealing to adults who are trying to quit smoking as the bulkier designs; this will help the teen vaping issue without affecting those who vapes were originally designed for.

The CEO of the Juul company has responded to this, and says the company is willing to work with the FDA’s new ways of dealing with the issues of vaping. A Juul spokeswoman, Victoria Davis, states their online orders will now need signatures to verify the ages of their online consumers, since so many teenagers successfully ordered Juuls under their parents’ names.

Many teenagers do not care, or even notice about, the dangers of the ingredients of the vapes they are inhaling. They care more about the taste of the vapes and the popularity they gain from it. Most teenagers specifically ask for fruity flavors, since that is what they are interested in inhaling, as opposed to nicotine. According to Plos One, studies show most people vape just to look cooler.

It is believed since vapes are not cigarettes, they eliminate the problems of nicotine addiction. Vapes just give a different and new way to get addicted to nicotine. The nicotine in vapes is still highly addictive and dangerous.

Since it is a brand new thing to do, it is considered cooler. In an interview, a Divine Child High School alumnus, who graduated only four years ago, states rarely any people he knew in high school vaped. Over the past four years, vape users went from next to no one to almost everyone in high schools in Michigan. Dr. Derek Bair speaks of a study in 2016, “According to the CDC in 2016, 11% of high school aged children and 4% of middle school age children had vaped within 30 days of the survey.” Since then, the numbers have only gone up.

The Detroit Wayne Mental Health Authority, or the DWMHA, believes nicotine is a gateway to nicotine addiction. They argue the FDA banned regular cigarettes from using a variety of flavors, but vapes can be any flavor their companies can think up. Thus, making the nicotine inside the vapes more appealing to consumers.