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An Important Message Regarding "Vaping"

posted Nov 20, 2017, 3:10 PM by Chuck Caragianes

Good afternoon,

School districts and principals across Massachusetts are dealing with a rapidly increasing use of E-Cigarettes, also called vaping pens, by students.  These devices are not legal to possess under the age of 18 and, in many communities, under the age of 21.

This practice, more commonly known as Vaping or Juuling (pronounced liked the the word jeweling and derived from the name of a major manufacturer of vaping pens),  has emerged at Maynard High School as well.

Below, I’ll begin with a description of what vaping is and some facts that have emerged around vaping use, discuss what consequences students can expect if caught vaping on campus or in possession of vaping material, and steps being developed to address vaping educationally and preventatively.

E-cigarettes, or vaping pens and devices, work by using electrical energy to heat a liquid in a cartridge or chamber until a mist is formed which can then be inhaled by a user.  These liquids generally contain varying amounts of nicotine (the purchaser can buy varying concentrations of nicotine from manufacturers) and flavoring agents such as cherry flavor or bubblegum flavor are frequently added.

The devices themselves vary in size from the size of a small pen to various larger canisters.  They are often disguised by the manufactures to look like pens, thumb drives, or even cans of soda.  They cost $20 for basic models and can be priced well beyond $100.

Unlike conventional cigarettes, vaping pens and devices do not leave a long lasting smell in the air, or sulphur smell from matches or burning.  If anything, a faint fruity smell is left briefly that can be reminiscent of candy, light perfume or light cologne.  Given this, it is possible to hold these very small items in a manner that is difficult to detect and to exhale the mist down into a sleeve or neckline of a shirt so that it condenses quickly and no “smoke” is observable.

These devices are far from harmless.  Nicotine concentrations can be purchased at levels so high that a single vaping cartridge (or pod), that can be completely consumed relatively quickly, may contain the equivalent nicotine to 20-30 cigarettes.  At these concentrations nicotine is a potent stimulant and is highly habit forming.  Indeed, nicotine is often described as addictive in much medical literature.  A new vaping related injury called “popcorn” lung is now being seen by doctors who are seeing blistering and destruction of lung tissue by vape users.

Additionally, some vaping devices contain internal tanks of varying sizes which can be refilled by the user from larger stored supplies.  These devices can then be used to load a variety of illegal and narcotic substances which are then put into the mist and inhaled.

Given the dangers and illegality associated with vaping, consequences for possession or use of vaping materials are significant at MHS.

At Maynard High School vaping devices are currently addressed in the Student/Parent Handbook under smoking policies.  If a student is found using vaping materials, in possession of vaping materials, or selling vaping materials to another student those materials will be confiscated and held by the school.  A student may face a range of consequences up to and including suspension.

Students in the presence of other students actively vaping are likewise subject to the same penalties.  To give a concrete example, if a coach walked into a locker room and one student was vaping in a circle of 4 students closely grouped together all 4 students are subject to discipline.

Additionally, vaping use or possession is a violation of the MIAA and Maynard High School’s Chemical Health Policy meaning students are subject to the loss of playing time in sports and the right to attend club meetings or activities for a period of time.

A student who is a member of the National Honor Society may receive disciplinary action up to and including dismissal from the organization for vaping use.

Unfortunately, students have been found with vaping materials at Maynard High, have been caught actually vaping at Maynard High, and have been found in the presence of others using vaping materials at Maynard High School.  Many of the consequences given above have been enforced as appropriate.  Fortunately, the number of these incidents have been few in number thus far, but the current trend is deeply concerning both here in Maynard and across the state.

The goal, however, cannot be to simply issue school based consequences for vaping use by students.  The true goal is to help students be informed about the realities of the harm vaping does, to help ensure that students make the best possible choices about their physical and emotional health, to prevent vaping materials from being on the campus, and to help students understand the full range of the ramifications of vaping use.

To that end many schools, and Maynard High School are developing units for insertion into the curriculum on the harms of vaping.  We are also looking at class meeting times to go over this issue and smaller classroom size opportunities to speak with students.

Parents, family members and peers also have a huge role to play in stopping the spread of this terrible health risk.  There ought to be no condoning of vaping by high school aged students.  There is simply no rational explanation for endorsing vaping use in any environment, let alone a school environment.  Parents should be discussing this issue with their children at home and peers need help their friends steer clear of these devices and the trouble they bring.

Student health and safety are the first concern of the Maynard Public Schools and Maynard High School.  Stopping the use of vaping materials at Maynard High School is essential to maintaining a healthy and safe environment for all.

Thank you for reading, please proactively discuss this topic with your children, and feel free to contact me should you have any questions.

Sincerely yours,

Chuck Caragianes

Principal of Maynard High School