Vape Haze Lingers in EHS Bathrooms


Zoe Cheung

EHS bathrooms are frequented by vaping students during class, passing time, and lunch.

Will Schwinghammer, head staff writer

The use of e-cigarettes, or vaping, is on the rise across the country, and Edina High School is catching up in the trend. EHS’s bathrooms are commonly-known hotspots for vaping. While its effects on users’ health are still unknown, vaping’s popularity certainly isn’t. Plenty of EHS students are partaking in this new alternative to cigarettes, and vaping appears to be here to stay.

The use of traditional tobacco cigarettes has decreased markedly in recent years. According to the Department of Health and Human Services, only 5.5% of high school seniors smoked cigarettes daily, down from 13.6% in 2005. However, 13.4% of high schoolers regularly vaped in 2014, according to the Centers for Disease Control, and e-cigarettes are the most popular tobacco product among high schoolers. The use of nicotine products has remained relatively constant over time, and the numbers imply that vaping is simply replacing cigarette use. However, this may not be for the better.

The effects of smoking cigarettes over the course of an entire lifetime are well-documented: risks of heart disease, cancer, and lung disease. However, vaping simply hasn’t existed long enough for researchers to thoroughly investigate its effects over time. “Putting anything in your body that shouldn’t be there is going to be damaging to your health and future,” EHS PE teacher Reed Boltmann said. Recent studies suggest that vaping may be less dangerous than smoking, but this has yet to be proven. The safest option is undoubtedly to use nothing at all.

In addition to health concerns, there are legal consequences to consider, especially when it comes to vaping on school grounds. State law makes it a misdemeanor for anyone to vape on school grounds at any time, and further prohibits any minor from possessing an e-cigarette. It’s illegal for minors to own or buy e-cigarettes, an important consideration to make for anyone interested in vaping.

The negative aspects of vaping are clear. Nicotine is highly addictive, and as previously stated, using or obtaining it is illegal for minors. According to Boltmann, how the EHS administration should address its use by students is also clear. “There should be consequences for breaking the law. If students are going to be breaking the law, they need to be held accountable,” Boltmann said. Boltmann believes that teachers ought to report students to administration if they are caught vaping.

Deb Link, an RN and secretary in the EHS nurse’s office, agrees. “Leave disciplinary action to administration,” Link said. As far as what teachers can do to combat vaping, Link sees a clear solution. “Education would be the first step. Education about the health effects and the policies,” Link said. It’s clear that students who wish to avoid trouble with administration would be best served by steering clear of e-cigarettes.

EHS Security Guard Tony Harmon often catches students in the act of vaping. His procedure from there is straightforward. “[I] escort them to the office and let administration deal with [them],” Harmon said. According to Assistant Principal Michael Pretasky, students who are caught with a vape on campus are given a one-day suspension. Harmon’s goal isn’t to get students in trouble, but instead to make sure everyone in the building is safe. “I came over here to help make it a safer school and a better school, and that includes smoking, drinking, and drugs,” Harmon said. Part of keeping people safe is to ensure that students aren’t getting into trouble in the bathrooms. Harmon makes regular sweeps of student bathrooms, checking for vaping, drug use, drinking, and fights. He also makes sure that students aren’t using lighters or creating other fire hazards. According to Harmon, the staff of EHS aren’t the only ones bothered by vaping in bathrooms. “It’s not just administration who complains about it, it’s other students as well,” Harmon said. “We just don’t want it in school,” Pretasky said.

Whether or not it’s a good idea, it seems likely that students will continue to use nicotine products. Numbers from the CDC have tracked a significant decrease in tobacco use in recent years, but vaping is on the rise. There is also no way to measure how many students at EHS vape with absolute certainty, and because of this it would be almost impossible to completely stamp out the issue. Regardless, any step away from a product as clearly damaging as cigarettes is one in the right direction, and only time can tell whether vaping is truly the safe alternative to smoking that proponents claim it to be.