Teen drug abuse leads many to fear for the health of the nation’s youth

Shelby Watkins, Feature Editor

Teenagers in the United States have become addicted to using e-cigarettes, which has led to150 illnesses and 18 deaths in the past year, according to The Washington Post.

In 2018, the National Youth Tobacco Survey found that 3.6 million teens in the United States had used an e-cigarette in the 30 days prior to the survey. According to this source, the numbers are still growing.

Of course, teenagers have abused drugs throughout the decades; however, mass media coverage of teenage deaths due to the chemical agent THC has raised awareness of the growing issue in teens.

Popcorn lung, an illness directly related to vaping deaths and hospitalization, causes shortness of breath and coughing that can be deadly. These products can also cause collapsed lungs and other illnesses related to the respiratory system.

The companies that produce these products still deny the danger they cause. 

Juul, the company most teens use for vaping, has recently been under fire for marketing their product towards teens. The FDA has been outspoken about Juul and the way they market their product as “totally safe.” 

The reason teenagers like using Juul might not be directly due to its claimed safety although it could still be a benefit to their marketing. A student from Coffee County says, “Juul’s are smaller and easier to hide. My parents don’t know what to look for.”

Many parents have an idea of what an electric cigarette might look like, so many do not expect a small, rectangular device like the design of a Juul product. Many describe the design of a Juul as similar to a USB drive, which many speculate is why parents look over the device.

For reasons unknown, Juul use has declined in past months; teenagers are now turning to a smaller and stronger type of electric cigarette.

According to the CDC, he newest type of vaping in teen culture is known as a “dab pen.” These contain marijuana and a cancer causing agent called THC. Also, they claim dab pens have been rising in popularity among teen drug users, and are the major cause of death in teenage vaping cases.

At Coffee County Central High School, it is not uncommon to see students using any of these products in school hallways, classrooms, parking areas and bathrooms. An anonymous source claims, “It’s really easy to vape during school. Most teachers don’t know what to look for, or don’t really notice students are using in class.”

The CDC and FDA are urging parents and schools to get involved and make sure teenagers understand the risks and the law. Many schools are at a loss on how to spot students with vapes and keep them away from illegal drug use.

As the problem rises, schools like Coffee County are looking for ways to handle their student’s vaping habits at school. Periodic drug searches are already in place at Coffee County; nevertheless, there are other ways schools can find and confiscate e-cigarettes.

Many schools are placing smoke detectors, similar to carbon monoxide sensors, in their buildings. These can be put in bathrooms or closets to detect smoke from vapes and catch students vaping during school hours.

With the epidemic of teen drug use rapidly spreading, it is almost impossible for schools to stop teens. Since these products are easily accessible and most students use them and few parents know about their child’s drug habits, schools have few ways to stop their students.

With the new skyrocket of deaths from THC in vaping, the rates of teenage drug abuse may lower due to fear, but it is still too early to know for sure.