Students in this story asked to remain anonymous and were given fake names to hind their identity.
She was at a party at a friend’s house and another friend passed it to her. She had never smoked or vaped but was intrigued – and 20 other kids at the party were doing it.
“Once I hit it, I feel that head rush again, and then I continue buying them after that point,” said a student we’ll call Jane, who didn’t want her real name used.
College students have been exposed many different substances that have taken a grip on their lives. Alcohol and marijuana have been the leaders of evil destroying the remaining innocence they had left on their early years.
The use of nicotine is also nothing new, created years ago with cigarettes. But it’s new villain is coming in the shape of E- cigarettes.
Some may argue that it’s not the villain. Despite health concerns and lack of knowledge, some people don’t seem to care as they crave the feeling vapes give them and they talk about how hard it is to stop once you start.
John, a junior, knows the feeling. Scrambling around his room looking for his vape after losing it, he’s in a panic wanting to get his next headrush and having it in his hand.
“I know it is bad for me, but I have become so reliant on it that I haven’t tried to stop,” John said.
But why are they so hard to put down?
According to the Centers for Disease Control, E-cigarettes, most refer to as a vapes, are devices that heat a liquid filled with nicotine, flavorings and added chemicals producing a smoke of small particles called an aerosol.
Nicotine is an addictive chemical that can cause a variety of health concerns especially in young people. The CDC explains that the chemical can harm the parts of the brain that control attention, learning, moods and impulse control. Going deeper, the brain creates synapses, or connections while learning a new skill or creating a memory. As the adolescent brain forms until age 25, this can tamper with the building of more synapses.
Vapes became overwhelmingly popular first to help people stray away cigarettes. This was considered the better alternative until new flavors started to emerge bringing in a new, younger market. In 2022, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration reported that more than 2.5 million teenagers have used or continue to use a vape.
Flavored vapes that featured fruit, dessert or candy flavors started take over the teenage market. The FDA showed that 85% of its current market use flavored vapes, which includes a huge portion of the teenage population.
Business has been booming for companies like Puff Bar, Vuse, Hyde and SMOK, which have become the go-to products for teens. They combine for 36.5% of products being used, according to the FDA.
Another CU student, a senior we’ll call Scott, started using nicotine just like many other people have claimed to use it for, to relieve stress. Scott said he only uses the vape when he’s at school rather than at home when there are no stressors surrounding him each day.
“I started vaping because I was so stressed out in school and other nicotine products weren’t doing it for me. At that point, you just have to do something,” he said.
Others say peer pressure from other friends started their “addiction.”
“It became something I depended on and needed. Once this happened, it was too late to realize that I had become addicted. It’s harder to stop than it is to start,” says Blake, another anonymous CU senior.
Starting in high school, the student would sneak a quick puff in the bathrooms in between classes to get a buzz.
Castleton’s Wellness Center conducted a survey on the use of vapes from students in February of 2022. Of those who participated, 22% admitted to using vapes in the past 30 days.
Another anonymous student, Sarah, said she uses the vape in place of other products she used at the time.
“I hate the way marijuana makes me feel. It was almost too much, where the high effect would last too long causing a state of paranoia,” she said.
Although vapes may have helped some stop smoking cigarettes or marijuana, it seemed to have only created a new problem to face.
“It’s honestly a bad habit and feels like a never-ending cycle of starting and stopping. I’m hoping once I’m away from it all, I’ll be able to stop. Seeing everyone with one almost made me feel less cool than them, which is super dumb,” Sarah said.