November 15, 2017
Dear BHS Parents and Guardians,
With the rise in popularity of e-cigarettes and vaporizers (both of which are commonly referred to as ‘vapes’), I thought it might be helpful to share some information with you and enlist your help to make sure students are not bringing them into Belmont High School. We have seen an increase in students possessing these items this year, and it is clear from conversations with other school leaders that neighboring districts – and those across the country – are experiencing the same increase.
Vapes are being heavily marketed to two groups. The first is for those looking to quit smoking cigarettes and the sales pitch is that vaporizing is healthier than smoking. There is minimal scientific evidence for this (largely because they are still new enough that long-term studies have not been done) and what is getting inhaled plays a significant role in how accurate that could be. But the ‘healthy’ benefits are a big part of the pitch.
The other group the companies are marketing to is adolescents and, while they are playing up the ‘healthy’ aspects, the real pitch here comes down to being ‘cool’. This effort to get young users early is made all the easier by vapes’ convenience and ability to be used quickly and without detection, with very little residual odor (it is usually a little sweet and not like cigarettes or marijuana). As you can see from some of the images below, vapes come in a wide range of designs, all of which easily fit into a pocket or bag. Some versions are designed to avoid notice by looking like other common items, such as inhalers, computer pen drives, and even small gaming systems. A quick Google image search using the words “vaping/vaping devices” will provide additional pictures if you would like to investigate further.
The liquid being vaporized and inhaled is usually referred to as the ‘juice’ and comes in small containers and in a very wide array of flavors. Some are simply flavored liquid. Many, though, have nicotine and other addictive elements to them. The juice is also easily – and often – infused with THC, the key chemical in marijuana.
The result of this ease of access is that students across the country are being encouraged to take part in behavior that is unhealthy, illegal, and, specifically, against the rules at BHS. This reality, mixed with a culture that is becoming increasingly tolerant of marijuana use in general, also means our students have greater access to ways of getting high that are difficult to detect while having fewer concerns about the detrimental impact of marijuana use on their still-developing brains. It’s not a good combination.
I strongly encourage you to talk with your student(s) about the dangers of vaping and the problems that can occur from it. Honest and straightforward discussions about issues such as these can have a very significant impact on their choices. In the conversation, it may be helpful to remind students that being in possession of tobacco or nicotine, tobacco/nicotine products, and paraphernalia are against school rules and are listed in the BHS handbook. We will be reminding our students of the concerns over these choices and the potential consequences and would appreciate your reiteration of those points as well. I also appreciate your attentiveness to items your student may have on their possession that look like vapes or the related aspects.
For your information, I addressed this topic with all students during class assemblies at the beginning of the school year. These conversations are ongoing with our students in order to remind them to make positive choices, health implications and avoid consequences. I would appreciate your reiteration of those points and your attentiveness to items your student may have in his/her possession that look like vapes or related aspects.
I do want to stress that Belmont High School is a safe place where the vast, vast majority of our students make great choices each and every day. My interest in reaching out to all of you is to help steer our students away from the draw of vapes’ easy access, use, and misuse. I appreciate your partnership to keep our students making healthy, safe and smart choices.