Ridge Vaping by the Numbers

Varsha Bhargava ‘23

Smoke spills out from beneath doors, shrouding everyone in a cloak of destruction. Enveloping the user and their friends in a cloud of death, blackening their lungs, and killing their innocence. These users wear acne on their faces — marks of adolescence; on their backs, backpacks carrying their high school notebooks; and between their lips, a USB-like stick, emitting deadly vapors. Do these teenagers understand what sucking in these harmful emissions will do to their bodies? To their futures? To their careers? And do their peers realize the shocking amount of people that do this to themselves in their very school?


We are a generation where electronic cigarettes are very available to us, and some can’t help taking advantage of this attainability, but do we really know the cold, hard numbers that come along with this obsession?


Frowns clouded everyone’s face in the PAC, on September 23rd, 2019, as graphs appear on the front board. These graphs regarding teenage vaping in Bernards Township schools give rise to questions regarding the accuracy of the figures, and the horrendous heights on the bar charts. People were shocked and parents muttered anxiously in their seats, but the information spoke clearly on that Powerpoint presentation. 


The charts and data viewed by the audience, at a Bernards Township Board of Education Meeting, came from compiled PRIDE survey responses from 901 students in total. 


The PRIDE survey is a survey that the 6th, 8th, 10th, and 12th graders took last year, in 2018, and will continue to take every alternating year. It is an anonymous survey that focuses on the use of drugs, alcohol, and electronic cigarettes within the student population, and also regards stress levels in students. This data can be used to assist the students as a whole to find a better way to cope with feelings or to dissuade impressionable minds and bodies from feeling the consequences of risky action. 


The average age of starting the use of electronic cigarettes in William Annin and Ridge is 13.4 years old. 


An eighth-grade student leans against the tiled bathroom wall, digging out of their pocket an electronic cigarette, a device that could permanently damage their life. Their child-like hands grasp the vape, placing it in their mouth, and inhaling everything that could blacken their lungs, shorten their life, and ruin their future.


29.4% of 12th graders last year admitted to using electronic cigarettes in the 30 days before taking the survey. 26.4% of 10th graders last year admitted the same.


Now, the results for the question: Perception of Risk- One or more packs of cigarettes a day? A vast majority of students answered that using one or two packs of cigarettes a day is a “Great Risk”, with all grade levels’ percentage of students picking “Great Risks” being above 67%, most in the 70% range. Although, there’s a shift when it comes to E-Cigarette usage risks. With E-Cigarettes, the results were way lower, with percentages in the mere 20% range, excluding 6th graders, who seem to be getting the right idea. The fluctuation in results shows the lack of education or sense students have regarding the subject of vapes. 


And of course, with any high school problem, peer pressure, or egging on from friends is involved. 41.8% of 12th graders last year said that their friends do not disapprove at all of E-Cigarette use- in addition to the 12th graders, 32.3% of 10th graders last year claimed the same. The simple act of not saying “no” to a friend can change their life, keeping silent while the smoke billows up beside you, is just encouraging the damaging behavior. 


A teenager walking with their friend suddenly conjures up an electronic cigarette, placing it in their mouth. Their friend glances their way, up at their eyes then down to their vape- they don’t approve of their habits, but who are they to say anything? 


Students, in this case, in Ridge specifically, are using these devices without much thought or consideration to the health hindrances that come along with them. Are they uneducated? Or do they simply not care about the havoc they are wreaking upon their bodies? In any case, someone needs to do something, the solution here would be to just educate students, persist and throw the knowledge into their brains, make them care about what they are doing, make them think. The only way to solve a problem is by taking action.


A presentation during school about the effects of vaping could greatly affect someone’s choices. A scientific experiment showing the bad things entering someone’s body every time they vape, and the overall progression of the effects could deter someone from vaping. These opportunities to learn about the health effects, effects on futures, relationships, on minds, can change at least one person’s mind. It could open a door for students to learn to make the right decisions. 


The hallway echoes with footsteps as children flow out from the auditorium, one student stands idle. They stare at a spot on the wall, ten feet away, a pondering look on their face. 


All of a sudden their friend rushes up and grabs their arm, “Hey, a couple of us are thinking about leaving early- did you bring your vape?” The student gently pulls their arm away from the friend’s grip, hesitating for a millisecond, before opening their mouth.


“I don’t know, I don’t think we should be missing more classes than we already do,” they responded, avoiding their friend’s disappointed eyes, which soon turn into weapons, stabbing them repeatedly with their glare. 


The friend stares the student in the face, “You actually believe that nonsense, don’t you?” they say, gesturing towards the auditorium with a disbelieving expression.


The student looks back at the auditorium, their dreams flying before their eyes, becoming captain of their sports team, attending a good college, living a long life with a family. “Yes, I do. I’m not wasting my dreams on a USB-stick filled with poison, I’m going to class.” And with that, they walked away from their good friend, who now looked curiously back at the auditorium.


[1] http://www.bernardsalliance.org/surveys

[2] http://www.bernardshealth.org/HDDocuments/Youth/PRIDE%20Survey%20Presentation%202019.pdf