Do You Even Vape?: An examination of vape culture at COC

by David Gonzales 527 views0

While walking to class, you smell the sweet aroma of what you assume to be cotton candy. You think a club is selling it nearby but you’re wrong. Instead, it’s the lingering smell left behind by someone who just exhaled from their vape pen.

The younger generation has always been known to “have their heads in the clouds.” However, this has taken on a different meaning as of late. Using a vape, wax pen, and, most recently, a “Juul”, is not uncommon at College of the Canyons.

“Yeah, I have about six flavors that I choose from throughout the week,” said COC student Gabriel Lopez.

Why is the act of vaping so popular among teens and young adults? Certainly, they aren’t seeking an alternative from cigarettes at such a young age. So, what’s the real reason?

“Well I mainly just do it ‘cause it tastes good and my friends do it,” said student Vanessa Walsh.

This trend seems all too familiar to the United States cigarette craze from the early 1900s through the 1960s. As it was back then, trying to fit in social groups is just as addicting as the nicotine that these products contain.

In the state of California, no person under the age of 21 can purchase tobacco products. As you can imagine, there are loopholes around such a law. Not every vape shop checks for I.D., people under the age can have people purchase vape products for them, and so forth.

The city of Santa Clarita doesn’t mess around when it comes to underage smoking of any kind. It always seems to be in the news that a Santa Clarita shop was suspected of selling tobacco products to an underage person.

For a business’ first violation, no fine will be charged but a warning letter will be issued by the FDA. If the business continues to sell tobacco products to underage people, increasing fines will the be distributed. Up to six violations in a 48-month period will result in over a $11,000 fine.

No known arrests have been made when it comes to smoking or distributing smoking products. Either the one doing it is good at hiding it, or they learned their lesson after the first incident.

In public spaces throughout the Santa Clarita Valley you will find designated areas where smoking is permitted. As for COC, the rules are a little different.

According to the school’s rules and regulations, smoking is not permitted within or around any building. Smoking and vaping are allowed in parking lots and in other designated areas.

“I think the rules here are easy enough to follow,” said student Aaron Rutherford. “The school could be way more strict if they wanted to be, but they’re pretty cool with it.”

Students like Rutherford usually tend to vape in the parking lot or near staircases, away from congested areas. While most students exhale the flavored air in a respectful manner, there are those who simply don’t care who they are around when they vape.

“I’ll vape whenever I’m walking outside,” said student Anthony Simms. “If I’m already outside, why should I have to go to a specific spot, you know?” Simms’s argument may have valid reasoning, but not according to campus officials.

According to the college’s website, any student found vaping or smoking inside buildings or in undesignated areas will be given a fine along with the termination of the cigarette if it is present.

Wax or “dab” pens are also common around COC. A wax pen looks much like a vape but instead of nicotine, these cartridges contain marijuana, or THC oil. These pens give the user a high without the odor that comes along with herbal marijuana.

Since the smoke exhaled from the wax pens looks almost identical to that of a vape, onlookers will rarely be able to tell the difference. “Oh yeah, I always keep my [wax] pen on me,” said Kinesiology major Ryan Collins. “It helps me relax and just gets me through the day.”

Students with wax pens on COC campuses may be able to blend in with the crowd. However, the same does not apply to high school students in the Santa Clarita Valley.

In the William S. Hart Union High School District, students caught with any smoking device will be suspended. If seen with a smoking device a second time, the student may be asked to leave the campus.

What seems to be the most common among high school students is the “Juul.” Juuls are very similar to vapes but are significantly smaller in size. Juul pods come in a variety of flavors, all containing nicotine.

Why Juuls are so popular in Santa Clarita high schools is still unknown. Some believe it is because Juuls are “easier” to obtain as opposed to other smoking devices.

“I caught my son smoking one of those things the other day,” said parent Jack Ballard. “These things were created to get adults away from smoking cigarettes and now these kids are smoking them for the heck of it.”

Ballard continued to say how teenagers are only vaping because they see their friends doing it. “Trying to fit in, that’s all it is really,” said Ballard.

While trying to be a part of the crowd may be a contributing factor, there’s more to it than just that.

Nicotine is the highly addictive chemical that is found in Juuls, vapes and cigarettes. People trying to quit smoking cigarettes may move to vapes as a healthier alternative.

While vapes don’t include the other harmful carcinogens found in cigarettes, they still contain the addiction factor. People who vape will often find themselves needing to frequently go outdoors to take a hit from their vape.

“One of my buddies got me hooked on these things a while back,” said local golf course employee Adam Kim. “Since I already work the majority of the time outside, I guess it’s a good thing not having to leave a room to smoke my vape.”

Kim went on to say that he can quit vaping anytime he wanted to. However, he enjoys experimenting and purchasing new juice flavors. Additionally, 21-year-old Kim said he spends about $60 every time he stops by a vape shop.

Along with nicotine found in the majority of vape juices are the numerous flavors that come along with it. If the nicotine wasn’t enough to draw in young crowds, the flavors will. Teens and young adults that fall into this age group want the latest and greatest right?

Vaping of any sort is a trend that won’t go away any time soon. With new improvements constantly hitting shelves, those who vape will continue buying them. As aforementioned, putting your money into these products can significantly add up.

New tricks and techniques are always occurring to hide the products from concerned parents and instructors. If anything, the act of vaping is continuing to grow. You’ll still find students walking to their cars or classes exhaling thick white clouds.

For some students, maybe it is a healthier alternative to smoking cigarettes. Other people’s reason for vaping is as good as anybody else’s. Whatever the case, becoming addicted to something isn’t the sign of someone with a healthy lifestyle.

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