Youth Vape Culture at U-32: What are we doing about it?

This article was written by Emily Cook, a senior in our journalism class here at U-32. 

According to the results of the 2019 Vermont Youth Risk Behavior Survey “One in six middle school students have ever tried an electronic vapor product (EVP)” and “ during the last 30 days, 26% of students reported using electronic vapor products (EVP)”.

The Bill

On January 18th this year a bill entered the senate and was read for the first time. It then was referred to the Committee on Economic Development, Housing, and General Welfare. This is “S.18, an act relating to banning flavored tobacco products and e-liquids.” 

“The intent of the bill is to try and prevent the use of tobacco and nicotine products in young people in Vermont because their data is showing that use [of tobacco products and e-liquids] has been growing increasingly over time and because their data shows that the most commonly used products among our generation in our age group is flavored products,” said Jasper Lorien, a senior here at U-32 and a member of the Vermont State Youth Council.

The bill would ban the sale of flavored cigarettes, e-cigarettes, and e-liquids which basically bans all sale of things between traditional cigarettes to Juuls. This also covers anything flavored like for example menthol cigarettes. 

Photo of Vermont State House. Photo credit to Casey Deree


“It would also make it easier for the government to punish violations. Right now the government isn’t very good at catching or preventing the use of illegal products, even the ones that are currently legal now, this would make it easier and give more resources to law enforcement in order to try and prevent some of that use,” said Jasper.

This would also keep the government more accountable by asking the attorney general to report on how they can do more things in the future. “It’s looking even further in the future specifically around how to prevent advertising or what the legality is around preventing advertising for those products in this state,” said Jasper.

“So it started off in Economic Development, Housing and General Affairs, then it was pretty quickly moved to Health and Welfare. It stayed in Health and Welfare for a while. It quickly was sent in and out of the Finance Committee, and then it went back to Health and Welfare. It went to the floor, it was passed, and now it’s in the Committee for Human Services on the house” said Jasper.

The Relationship Between Youth and Nicotine

“[Use of tobacco and nicotine products] [has] always been a huge issue.” said Amber Larrabee, a nurse here at U-32.

According to the Vermont Department of Health, 26% of high school students in Vermont said to have used e-cigarettes at least once in the past 30 days according to data gathered in 2019.

According to a VT Digger commentary by U-32’s principal Steven Dellinger-Pate and assistant principal Jessica Wills,This is an addiction, and this addiction is making it difficult for youth to go to school ready to learn.” 

The nurses at U-32 noticed that contributing factors to why so many of today’s youth in Vermont are using tobacco products and/or e-liquids are because they come in a variety of shapes, sizes and colors that are very appealing to buyers especially in advertisements.


Graph from the Center of Disease Control and Prevention that shows e-cigarette usage in the youth is rising with the money put into advertisements


Amber recently went to a conference where there was a pediatric pulmonologist which is basically a childrens’ doctor who specializes in lung health. The doctor typically has to deal with children with asthma as well as kids who develop asthma from vaping. The pediatric pulmonologist spoke about how crazy it is that the idea of vaping is seen as cool by today’s youth when it results in awful health problems in the future.

“The only thing that should be going into our lungs is fresh air. And here we are inhaling oil which is sticky, and it leaves a residue and it’s not only just the oil, but there’s nicotine in it,” said Amber. 

“When [younger kids] get something that releases dopamine in their body, their bodies have a really exaggerated dopamine release, and so they get stuck on that. And then as they get older, they require this higher level of stimuli to get the same effect,” Mahala Largent, another nurse here at U-32 said.

In the same VtDigger article mentioned above, Steven Dellinger-Pate and Jessica Wills said that “26% of Vermont high school students are vaping, and daily use has tripled.”

Massachusetts Law

If this bill passed, Vermont wouldn’t be the first state to do so. In November of 2019 Massachusetts became the first state to have passed a law banning the sale of menthol and flavored tobacco. 

According to the VTDigger Commentary, usage of e-cigs in Massachusetts among the youth dropped from 32% to 17.6%.

In the same VTDigger article mentioned above, Steven and Jess said “We’d like to see those kinds of declines here. Good declines mean less nicotine use, fewer addicted kids, and less time lost feeding the addiction in classrooms.”


Table from the National Library of Medicine that shows the means of state characteristics for non-bordered and bordered states before the passing of the 2019 Tobacco Control Law


Will This Really Work?

But even if the law passes here in Vermont, what will that be doing for everyone who is already addicted? And how can we be sure that these numbers are accurate? According to the National Library of Medicine, in two national surveys of 4510 Americans, 60-80% lied to their doctors or withheld information that could greatly impact their health later in life.

“I believe that it [won’t] actually do as much as they hope it’s going to do when you’re working on stopping addiction, and you only remove some of the products available. It doesn’t actually do much to prevent people that are already addicted,” said Jasper.

A quick google search shows that in the state in the state of Vermont there are between 6-8 places addicted youth can go to for help and a lot of the time kids would need their parents to bring them there. A Lot of the time when it comes to things like addiction it can be very hard for kids to open up to their parents about it especially if their home is an unsafe environment. With that being said, how can we make help more accessible for everyone?

“There’s very little addiction services for youth especially in schools because of the stigma around it and because of the fear of being punished. So I think this bill is a start, but they also need to focus on people that are already using and how to help them especially when those people are in school,” said Jasper.


A picture of the middle school girls bathroom, one of the most common places for kids to be caught vaping in U-32. Photo credit to Emily Cook



In the VTDigger article that featured Steven and Jess, they mentioned some staff here in our school that we can use as resources such as our student services department, RISE coordinator, dean, and administration who all play a role in providing students who have been caught using these substances in chances of reflection and education.

Here at U-32 we have several policies regarding substance use in the building. Depending on the circumstance, the use of the substance could lead to suspension or even the student being expelled. If you would like to know more you could always talk to an admin or counselor at U-32, or visit the U-32 website.


When it comes to vaping there are a lot of misconceptions and lies that are spread around the community and get people to join. One of the more common myths that caused a lot of smokers to start vaping is that it is better for you, when in reality, it isn’t.

According to the National Library of Medicine, “JUUL Labs reports each 5% (nicotine-by-weight) cartridge contains approximately 40 mg of nicotine per pod and is ‘approximately equivalent to about 1 pack of cigarettes.” Now a lot of companies are being sued as a result of false advertisement.

“I don’t think kids seem to really understand the risks of smoking or vaping,” said Amber.

The U-32 nurses collectively believe that if the students here at U-32 were more aware of the long lasting health effects of nicotine, vapes and e-liquids, then there would be a significant decline of the use of these products in our learning environment.


A picture of U-32 nurses Mahala Largent and Amber Larrabee. Photo credit to Emily Cook


“It’s not just that you might get addicted to something or that it’s going to affect your lungs, it’s all sorts of things like your ability to play a sport. So if you are a sprinter on track and you’re vaping that’s going to affect your ability to run,” said Mahala.

One idea of how to make education about vapes, e-liquids, and nicotine and their effects on our bodies, is to reenact some experiences you may come across in real life. It’s difficult to make education about a subject like this hands-on, but one of the few ways to do that is by acting and roleplaying.

Another idea that nurses had in regards to how to teach the students here at U-32 about these substances is by including human stories and experiences into the learning and as soon as possible.

“I think that’s how people connect with learning, by having a human aspect to it. I [also] think [that] we need to include it [starting at] seventh grade, and we need to continue to talk about it every single year, and in multiple formats,” said Mahala.

It may even be smarter to start education on these topics as early as second or third grade. Currently, according to the Vermont Department of Health, we start teaching kids about these risks around the age of eleven and the education doesn’t stop until graduation. What is stopping our school system from teaching children about these risks from a younger age like elementary schools do all over the country?

“[I have] kindergarteners and they know that smoking is bad for you, [but] I don’t know how much of it is that I have talked about how smoking is not good for you, and how much of it is that they learn it at school as well, because they’ve come out with things at times that I think they must have some exposure to it [during] health class at school. I think that’s really important,” said Mahala.

Administration here has asked Mahala to develop an education system about the risks of vaping and flavored nicotine products for the middle school because of how huge of an issue this has become in our school community, especially in the middle school.


A picture of a drawer in Jess’s office that is overfilled with confiscated items from students at U-32 that includes vapes and e-cigarettes. Photo credit to Emily Cook


“I haven’t personally seen a lot of it, because I don’t do any disciplinary stuff. I see kids when they’re sick. I have been told that it’s a big deal and I have been working on developing some education to give to the middle schoolers,” said Mahala.

In the VTDigger Commentary Steven and Jess said that “The Vermont Principals’ Association has urged the Legislature to act now because “vaping in schools is reaching a crisis level not only in high schools but also in middle schools in the state.””

This is such a large problem that is affecting the youth’s education and our community and it is up to us to do something about it. We have tools that we can use such as pointing those in need to trustworthy adults and educating the youth as soon as possible. Hopefully the passing of this bill will also help prevent further addictions especially with Vermont kids. 

In the VTDigger Commentary, Steven and Jess said “We must put our kids before industry profits and prevent future generations from becoming addicted.”In a Barton Chronicle article published two months ago, Senator Ginny Lyons, chair of the Senate Committee on Health and Welfare and the lead sponsor of the bill said,  “As lawmakers we put the health of Vermont youth above all else.”

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.