HomeCampusElectronic cigarette use on campus disrupts student life

Electronic cigarette use on campus disrupts student life

Published May 9, 2024

BY ALEXANDER FREDERICK

The state of the boys’ bathrooms at Carmel High School has become a joke among students. 

According to CHS assistant principal Ernesto Pacleb, the number of students vaping on the CHS campus is a major reason behind regular student bathroom closures.

“It’s a serious crisis,” Pacleb says. “Not just here, but all around the country, we have a serious issue. To me, the most important thing is that students further their education and these addictive chemicals like nicotine or THC are the last thing they need.” 

When a student is discovered vaping in a bathroom, it results in the closure of the bathroom which disrupts students who need to use the restroom between classes or at a break, Pacleb explains. Bathrooms are also closed due to lack of staff available to monitor student safety. 

Students are not the only groups affected by this, though. Often teachers or staff are inconvenienced by the vaping and bathroom closures as well.

Student life is disrupted by frequent bathroom closures caused by vaping in the stalls. (courtesy of NEBRASKA MEDICINE)

“Several times I’ve walked into the bathroom in between classes, and instead of using the restroom I end up having to take a kid down to the office,” CHS social studies teacher Bill Schrier says. 

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, a national 2023 survey estimated 10 percent of all students have used an electronic cigarette in the past 30 days. 

“Everyone knows at least one person who vapes,” junior Weston Wilson says. “Every other day, one of the bathrooms is closed.”

With five-minute passing periods between classes, students may be unable to go to the restroom if the one on their route to class is locked. Student bathrooms now have posted guidelines in response to these concerns, listing expectations for students using the restroom: “No vaping,” or “1 person per stall at all times,” but according to one CHS junior, these rules are frequently broken.

“A lot of us just go to the bathroom in class and hang out, vape or whatever,” says the junior male, who prefers to remain anonymous. “We are not trying to be in anyone’s way. We’re just chilling.” 

The junior goes on to explain that even though he understands that vaping and smoking is bad for his health, he won’t quit. He adds that he would be disappointed and upset if family members started the habit. 

“These substances are so dangerous because of how quickly you get hooked,” Pacleb says.

Punishments for students caught vaping have undergone a drastic change from the guidelines in the CHS student handbook. The current CHS student handbook outlines the drugs and alcohol policy with a first offense resulting in a five-day suspension and the school contacting the Monterey County Sheriff. The second offense results in a recommendation for a year expulsion and the contact with the Monterey County Sheriff. 

This year, though, CHS administrators have begun to take a notably different approach.

“We don’t want to come in with an iron fist,” Pacleb explains. “We want to help these students, have meaningful conversations and encourage them to spend their time on healthy things like running or yoga.” 

The bathroom closures can be a result of vape or drug usage even if nobody is caught. According to the U.S. Surgeon General’s Report, vapes function by using batteries to heat up a liquid that usually contains a form of nicotine, flavoring and other liquids that people then inhale into their lungs–they can also be used to deliver THC or other cannabinoids–and these batteries have been found clogging CHS toilets. 

“Just the other day there was a toilet clogged, and we looked and there were three vape batteries and a charger in the toilet,” Pacleb says.

It isn’t uncommon to see whatever cafeteria food that was offered during break in the boys’ urinals alongside vape pens clogging the toilets.

“This is a school, not a daycare,” senior Quinn Weisenfeld says. “People should be focused on learning, not acting like [idiots] in the bathroom.”  

People struggling from a vaping addiction can call 1-800-784-8669.

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