Vaping is the act of inhaling cannabinoids or nicotine vapor by using an electronic cigarette or a vaporizer. At our high school, vaping has become a common habit of students. As humans, we like to do things that make us feel better. We tend to use substances to achieve this goal by consuming drugs or alcohol. Many debates arise concerning the legality of drugs and their use, the age at which people should be allowed to drink, or the age at which people should be allowed to purchase vaporizer or e-cigarettes. Thus, many movements were formed with the intent to advocate for a particular outcome in this debate. For instance, the Temperance movement was started with the intention to fix the ills created by alcohol. On the other hand, other movements, such as NORML, have the goal of legalizing marijuana. These movements advocate their respective viewpoints. At the moment, those attempting to stop the use of vapes resemble the prohibition movement. As such, in both cases, the result is that powerful people are banning habits they do not agree with or, if they do permit such habits, the government ends up imposing a tax on such activities.
At the turn of the 19th century, alcohol consumption was associated with domestic violence and saloon based political corruption. The American Temperance Society led the advocacy for prohibition of alcohol. They succeeded in constitutionally prohibiting production, importation, transportation, and sale of alcoholic beverages that was in place from 1920 to 1933 by means of the Eighteenth Amendment. Nonetheless, the laws were widely disregarded and tax revenues from alcohol consumption were lost. Very well organized criminal gangs took control of the beer and liquor supply for many cities, unleashing a crime wave that shocked the nation.
However, prohibition proved to some that it was causing crime and lowering local revenues. Furthermore, it was also perceived as an imposition of rural Protestant values on urban America. Thus, thirteen years after prohibition started, the Constitution was ratified again with the Twenty First Amendment repealing the Eighteenth. Nonetheless, whether Prohibition succeeded or failed is matter of what metrics are analyzed. While Prohibition led to an increase in organized crime, it also succeeded in cutting overall alcohol consumption in half during the 1920s, and consumption remained below pre-Prohibition levels until the 1940s.
At Oak Ridge High School, like in many other high schools, vaping is thriving like an epidemic. Many students vape because of the ‘high’ that nicotine gives it users. These
effects include a sense of increased focus, a sudden feeling of blood rush, and increase heart rate. Students have recently started to vape more frequently on the campus of Oak Ridge. Many use the bathrooms as a safe haven from campus administration. Some are even vaping while in class.
One account from a student who would like to stay anonymous tells the story of how a group of five friends would all text each other the times to go to the bathroom. Then, one friend would have the vape and they would all partake in its indulgence. Sometimes, the hall monitors would barge in the bathrooms and would take them to the principal’s office.
The administration has recently put their foot down by restricting the use of bathrooms to no more than two. The reasoning is that with less bathrooms to monitor, the school has more control over what happens in the bathrooms. While this might correct, that does not mean that the school will succeed in decreasing the occurrence of vaping. Indeed, students will find other places to vape – including the classroom. As such, history has shown us that during Prohibition, people who wanted alcohol will do whatever is necessary to obtain it. The same would apply to vaping. The students who crave that high will do anything possible to achieve their desired end result, even if it goes against the rules.
In other instances, measures that allegedly intend to curb the use of such substances actually end up having a different effect that would permit skeptics to cry hypocrisy. This is most true for cigarettes. In November of 2016, California voters approved Proposition 56, which increases the cigarette tax rate. The tax on a cigarette pack of 20 cigarettes increased from $0.87 to $2.87. It might be argued that this is a disincentive for youngsters to smoke yet most young people do not start smoking cigarettes as they do not deem it as ‘cool’ anymore. Instead, as discussed above, they vape. However, cigarette smokers, that is a nicotine and/or cigarette addicts, would not give up smoking due to this price hike. The only thing that would matter to smokers is that they have to budget in higher prices for their addiction.
This results in a bizarre situation: a majority of Proposition 56 voters, probably non-smokers themselves, imposed a tax on a minority of people for a medical condition they suffer from (addiction). It is as if non-smokers are punishing smokers for a lifestyle that do not concern them. Additionally, taxes on goods are regressive taxes which means they mostly affect the poor rather than the rich (a wealthy smoker would not be very affected by an increase of 2 dollars a pack as opposed to a unwealthy smoker). Therefore, Proposition 56 will probably not decrease cigarette smoking, but it will certainly punish the poorest of smokers.
As a society, we are creating a new generation that is brought up on the values that smoking is unhealthy and seriously harmful. Vaping, on the other hand, is not a problem. Why is that the case? We have made exorbitant efforts in stopping people from starting to smoke but have not realized that vapes are the next big thing. They offer most of the feelings you get with cigarettes ostensibly without the side effects. In efforts to stop teens from consuming nicotine, the State of California also raised the age of tobacco and vape purchases to 21. Many of these laws and regulation do not really do much to put an end to the use of under age smoking. If some teens desire to vape, they will vape.
As a society we should stop creating harsher laws for vapes and cigarettes. Instead we should educate the masses honestly and objectively about the risks involved with each substance. At the end of the day, increasing the prices of such products is only affecting those who can barely afford to feed their addiction. Overarching and misplaced laws can also have opposite effects. As a whole, better education and helping those in need can go further than knowingly stealing money from those who are victims of addiction and posturing with inappropriate policies.
Article by Anthony Verandes and Paul Hissen
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