Huffing, puffing, blowing the school down

Vaping+on+campus+is+illegal.

Laura Smith

Vaping on campus is illegal.

This school is littered with wolves.

Huffing, puffing, vaping wolves.

In and out of activity period, before and after school. They hover around, waiting for another little pig who won’t notice them puffing. In their pockets rest tiny gas flasks vomiting vile fumes. They prowl through the halls, careful to dodge the watchful teachers, until they can hide, sit back and huff.

And puff.

And blow their sugary nastiness into the faces of uninterested classmates who just want to breathe without a headache.

“Vaping” is a slang term used to refer to e-cigarettes, or cigarettes which heat a flavoring container usually containing nicotine into a steam which can be “smoked.” A 2015 study by the CDC found about 16 percent of teens vaped in 2015. Sixteen percent of Canyon High’s 1,166 students adds up to 187 e-cigarette users prowling the halls: 187 wolves.

That’s about 17 football teams, 16 basketball teams, 16 Eagle’s Tale staffs and seven full school buses (with two people per seat). It is more than double the number of full-time teachers the high school has.

So yes–according to the statistics, a lot of students vape. Not all of them vape at school, but some do. And it wouldn’t be as much of a bother and a pain if they did not take their sweet, sugary gas flasks into some classes.

Was it illegal to smoke in class? Was it even against the school rules? I had no clue.”

— Erin Sheffield, 10

I did not even know what a vape looked like until my freshman year. I was in a classroom during an after-school practice, finishing a project as others worked in another room, and another student approached. She asked me if I wanted to go to the car with her. I said no.

And she asked again. And I still said no.

And she asked again with that “come on, say yes, I’m trying to help you here” look. And I was still confused and said no.

She left. I turned around. It turned out three students were giddily passing around their e-cigarettes in the room and testing each others’ flavors. I went home with no progress on my project and a wretched headache.

Of course, that was after school. I still had not heard of anyone vaping in class, so I figured nobody cared if they used their e-cigs in the classroom as long as the smell dissipated by morning. I had not even known what they looked like until that day. And had they used in class, I would not have known what to do. Was it illegal to smoke in class? Was it even against the school rules? I had no clue.

Turns out it is illegal and against the school rules. According to the Texas Education Code, Chapter 38, Section 38.006, students should not be allowed to even possess e-cigarettes on school property or at school events, which includes One Act rehearsals. Page 14 of Canyon ISD’s Code of Conduct states, “Students shall not possess or use… e-cigarettes and any component, part or accessory for an e-cigarette device.”

But the vapers often sneak around teachers, puffing into bottles or only when faculty are not in the room. How can anyone enforce the rules? A fellow little pig stuck in a class of vaping wolves sent me her written account of an in-class incident.

We’ve reached the point at which vaping is such a widespread issue, it no longer just affects a few classrooms; it negatively affects all the students in the school.”

— Erin Sheffield, 10

“At first [the students] were secretive about it,” she wrote. “However, as the weeks progressed and they realized they were getting away with it, they became more ambitious and were doing it openly whenever the teacher wasn’t looking. I tried to keep my mouth shut and ignore them so I could learn, but it was getting out of hand.

“One day, they had the nerve to take the machines apart on their desk and were getting paper towels to clean them. It was starting to really bother me. I turned around to say something, and one of them blew a giant puff of smoke directly in my face. That was it for me. I switched spots at my desk with a friend to get a better view, and then I snapped several pictures of them vaping and turned them in to the school watch hotline.”

Still, despite the victory she achieved, it still isn’t enough. Only one person reporting won’t fix the whole school’s problem; just her class’s. The ban on activity period is aimed at all disciplinary issues–including vaping. We’ve reached the point at which vaping is such a widespread issue, it no longer just affects a few classrooms; it negatively affects all the students in the school. The desire of 187 students to huff and puff some nicotine (sometimes in passing period) now means all 1,166 students can’t meet with their clubs or stop by The Eagle’s Nest for a t-shirt.

There’s plenty of evidence to support not vaping underage at all. Nicotine is as addictive as heroin or cocaine, and repeated use creates a tolerance. Since e-cigarettes contain nicotine, switching from cigarettes to e-cigarettes just strengthens the nicotine addiction. Moreover, researchers at Harvard found 39 of 51 popular e-cigarette flavors include diacetyl, which can cause lung disease when inhaled. It’s unlikely the entire problem of underage vaping will cease, though, no matter how hard we, the little pigs, try.

Therefore, as a wee little pig who sees vapes where they shouldn’t be, I encourage my classmates to take advantage of their voices and their phones. Students can text StayALERT at (206)-406-6485 or call the local Crime Stoppers at (806)-372-8477 to report incidents. As my friend wrote, “You never want to be the person that gets labeled the tattle-tale or the teacher’s pet, but whenever your bad behavior is distracting me from my learning, I will never hesitate to stop it. Your social status is not worth my education.”