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SHS Students Appear on Good Morning America to Warn of the Dangers of Vaping

Juul 3It turns out that not all students welcome the smell of vapor that they often find in the high school bathrooms. Though vaping, or “Juuling” has captured some teens, others see it as an addictive and unhealthy habit that they think their peers should avoid.

In a survey given to Scarsdale High School students last February, 97% of students responded that they did not use any tobacco products in the past 30 days and 91% of students reported they did not smoke an e-cigarette in the past 30 days. In a follow up survey given last week to Scarsdale 9th, 10th, and 11th graders, 17% of the 750 that responded said affirmatively that they are Juuling or vaping. Of those, nearly 97% said they Juul or vape with others, and 24 of those users said they Juul or vape in school bathrooms. 31% of the students said that they are negatively impacted by Juuling and vaping that occurs in the bathrooms. Of those who do Juul or vape, 80% said they do not want help in quitting, 12% answered with maybe, meaning only 8% want help with their addiction. It is clear that this issue has hit Scarsdale High School hard. 

On May 3, two SHS students, Senior Jack Waxman and Sophomore Sam Friedman appeared on Good Morning America to air their eye-opening video about the dangers of using e-cigarettes, specifically Juuls. A Juul is an e-cigarette that was designed as a safer alternative to smoking cigarettes. Juuls contain the same nicotine levels as cigarettes, however, they are less harmful. Recently, there has been an epidemic within the youth community in relation to Juuling. The main issue, according to Waxman, is the different flavors of Juul “pods”, the colorful E-Liquid cartridges that deliver the nicotine. Waxman refers to this method as a “flavor trap,” drawing teens in with the appeal of different flavors such as “cool mint” or mango. “These flavors trick 13 year olds into thinking Juuling is okay,” says Waxman.

Juul 2Waxman Preparing for Good Morning AmericaWaxman recently started his campaign “JUULERS AGAINST JUUL” which revolves around teens who are addicted to Juuling and want to make a change. The video, created by Waxman and directed and produced by Friedman, features avid Juul users who admit to being addicted and can not stop. Waxman focuses on how the flavors do the most damage, “flavors bring the kids in and the nicotine causes them to stay,” says Waxman. Juuls are four times more potent with nicotine than cigarettes; one Juul pod contains 5% nicotine by volume while a pack of cigarettes contains 1.23% nicotine by weight. One Juul pod is the equivalent of one pack of cigarettes. The addiction is so severe that some kids wind up smoking up to one or more pods a day.

Not only are teens risking addiction, but according to a study done by the Harvard School of Medicine, out of 51 brands of e-cigarettes tested, 92% carried at least one chemical known to cause cancer.

Juul 1From left to right: Lazar, Solomon, Waxman, Michael Strahan, Friedman, and FerreiraEven though these teens participating in this video are exposing their bad habits, they are standing up to be a voice for change. When approached by Waxman to be featured in the video, one teen recalls, “he gave me a couple of days to think about it… and I looked around and I see that… all my best friends are addicted to nicotine.” Scarsdale students Fletcher Faden (16), Jack Solomon (15), Sylvia Lazar (14), Margarita Ferreira (14) talk openly about their addiction and their struggle with the Juul. “I think kids leaving school desperately needing pods happens a lot,” says Solomon. “It’s a part of my life now, I know it’s bad but I can’t stop,” explains Ferreira.

Aside from speaking out in the video, these “Juulers against Juul" are also fighting for a change. On April 30, Waxman, along with Faden, Solomon, and Ferreira, attended The American Cancer Society day at the Capitol in Albany. At the event, the teens were able to talk to different New York State legislators about the issue of e-cigarette flavoring and the growing Juul epidemic in youths. They expressed how enticing these flavors are to kids who get hooked on vaping and due to the nicotine, they cannot stop.

Waxman is also a member of the Drug and Alcohol Task Force (DATF), a group that works on ways to prevent drug and alcohol use in the youth community. DATF has made numerous efforts this year to raise awareness about and prevent teen drug and alcohol use in the community. This year, DATF held numerous events, most recently so Teen Healthy Brain Day, where booths demonstrating the effects of alcohol and different drugs have on the body and mind. The task force has also developed their own website to get the word out about creating a substance free community among youth as well as promote their events. They have also worked towards their goal of eliminating underage substance use by sending students to the Community Anti Drug Coalition of America conference and the youth-to-youth conferences in order for students to get more involved and raise awareness among their peers.

DATF LogoThe task force is advocating for support for the Tobacco 21 bill in Westchester County, a bill that if passed would raise the required age to buy tobacco products from 18 to 21. This, in turn, would potentially decrease the amount of youths who start their nicotine addiction at such a young age, considering these products would be much harder to obtain. On May 21, there will be a public hearing in the county to discuss the bill.

Already in Scarsdale High School, students have taken steps to drug and alcohol prevention by beginning to implement a Students Against Destructive Decisions (SADD) club. This initiative will help teens connect with others interested in reducing underage substance use across the region and even the nation. The task force is also thinking of new ways to raise awareness at the middle school level considering the tremendous increase of students who use substances in high school from middle school. In addition, DAFT has been utilizing their social media accounts such as their Instagram account and Facebook to raise awareness.

In fact, back in February, the Scarsdale School District hosted "Vaping, E-Cigs and the Health of Our Youth," a presentation by Dr. Richard Stumacher, chief of pulmonary and critical care at Northern Westchester Hospital, and a smoking cessation expert. This presentation informed parents and administration of what e-cigarettes are and what effects they have on health. Dr. Stumacher continued his presentation by adivising parents on how to face this issue if their children are Juul or E-cigarette users. Read more about Dr. Stumacher’s presentation and his advice to parents here.

To watch JUULERS AGAINST JUUL, click here. To watch the students appear on Good Morning America, click here. 

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