Smoke and mirrors


E-cigarettes, thought to be a safer alternative than regular cigarettes, have been trending among teenagers, but what are the real costs?

A blue light illuminated senior Oseas Perez’s face as he inhaled the peach mix with E- Energy-flavored vapor. He opened his mouth in an O, and blew rings of thick fog.

Perez first began using an electronic cigarette during his sophomore year, when his older friends started using one.

“I thought it was really kind of dumb, in a way, because they wanted to quit cigarettes, but smoked cigarettes sometimes,” Perez said. “It’s sort of like hookah. A lot of people smoke hookah, and I like hookah. The e-cig was just there. Why go waste money at a hookah bar when you can get an e-cig without nicotine in it.”

Many students have felt the pressure to begin using devices such as e-cigs and hookah pens, just as they have been pressured to use regular cigarettes. According to the American Lung Association, two of the top five reasons teens begin smoking are peer pressure and feeling as if everyone around them is smoking.

“Yeah, I would say that when all of our friends were sitting around with them,” sophomore Hunter Wiercinski said. “Most, or all, of our friends have them.”

With only the assurance of a friend, or even an acquaintance, teens have become convinced that these electronic smoking devices are less harmful than cigarettes. Some teens begin to smoke these devices to feel a buzz; however, they often use them more than one would use a conventional cigarette to achieve the same feeling.

“You can actually feel a buzz,” Oseas said, “but you have to keep doing it so often to get a buzz like a cigarette.”

This misinformation perpetrated the idea that electronic smoking devices are nicotine-free or have a low nicotine content. While one can purchase nicotine-free e-liquids, the liquids and cartridges generally do contain nicotine and can contain more nicotine than a regular cigarette. Nicotine being the addictive agent of cigarettes, one can become addicted using e-cigs as well.

“People don’t realize you really can get addicted to them if you’re not careful,” senior Skyler Jackson said. “However, there is also lower nicotine content ones or ones without nicotine. You can’t get nicotine-free cigarettes.”Between these common misconceptions and the fact that they are easily accessible for high school students, the decision to pick up smoking has become easier with electronic devices. According to a recent report from the Centers for Disease Control, 160,000 high school students have used e-cigs without ever smoking conventional cigarettes.

“People here think of smoking cigarettes as more of a dangerous thing that they shouldn’t be doing, whereas with an e-cig, it’s like, ‘Oh, it’s only 99 percent water. My friend has one right here, and I can take just one puff of it,’” Jackson said. “I think that they are too accessible; I even know a lot of sophomores who have them, and it’s going to get a lot of people addicted to nicotine who have never smoked cigarettes to start with.”

With the growing popularity of these devices, they have even begin to show up in school, in restrooms and even in classrooms.

“They are very common in school,” Wiercinski said. “I saw a kid one just in the bathroom.”

Smoking in group settings has an appeal to many teens as their desire to smoke increases as they see others around them smoking, according to the National Center for Biotechnology Information.


Senior Erin Smith didn’t start smoking to be cool or rebellious, but because it helped her control her anxiety.


Electronic smoking devices appeal to users because the exhaled smoke of an e-cig or hookah pen lingers approximately three to 10 seconds and leaves little to no scent.

Anonymous Student Column

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