Editor’s Note: Digital Devil has granted anonymity of the students interviewed to ensure honest responses. Pseudonyms were created to protect the identities of real students. Juuls, stixs, and other forms of e-cigarettes are illegal for minors.
“I started to go through stix within hours,” says Emma Allen, a sophomore female, who initially could not stand the nicotine in e-cigarettes. “I tried to stop, but I couldn’t even make it a day without it (Juul),” says Clark Morgan, a junior male. “I quit for two days before a friend offered me theirs, and next thing you know I’m going through a stix every week,” says Hayden Hampton, a sophomore female.
Allen, Davis, and Morgan are just a few of the many students around the nation suffering from a nicotine addiction as a result of using some sort of alternative smoking device. Since their introduction in 2015, Juuls and stix have caused a nicotine addiction in a generation who would never dream of lighting up a traditional cigarette. Fruity flavors such as cappuccino and strawberry lemonade attract teens who would have never imagined themselves smoking and mask the dangers because it doesn’t seem like smoking.
Whether it is the strawberry-scented cloud that’s hard not to notice drifting out from under a stall, or empty pods in the corner of a certain large classroom, it is undeniable that the e-cig epidemic is in effect at Owensboro High. Yet, many are unaware of the severity of addiction for students within our school.
Until e-cigs, school smokers were stereotypically thought of as slackers who blew off class to hang out in the bathroom and indulge their habit. Now, the students with perfect grades and countless extracurriculars are not immune to the addiction. For Morgan, an occasional hit of a coworker’s e-cig smoke breaks in the bathroom evolved into a daily thing. And he doesn’t just do it at work.
“A pod would last a month, and then it was one a day, “ says Morgan. With the stress of junior year, a stix is Morgan’s “go-to” for any inconvenience. “I felt defeated at the beginning of junior year, and the Juul took the edge off.”
“I knew it was getting bad when I stopped buying gas to buy stixs, being mad because I did not have one, throwing up,” says Morgan. The accessibility hasn’t helped him escape the addiction. Even when he tried to quit because he was “scared about my lungs,” a friend asked if he wanted to go buy one, and the cycle started again.
“Part of me wished I never got involved with it because it does wreck my life at times,” says Morgan, “My dad has gotten disappointed with me. I care about my dad’s opinion,but I do not think I can make it through without it. (Juul.)”
Some are not as aware of their problem as Morgan, increasing the likelihood of continued addiction. “I guess I realized I was addicted now that you’ve interviewed me,” says Hampton.
Similar to Morgan, Hampton had no interest in e-cigs, and started smoking after her peers were passing one around in the bathroom. For Hampton, there is nothing like nicotine relief to cure school boredom. Over time, Hampton found herself getting “a new stix a week.”
Within weeks, the breaks turned into a necessity. “Whenever I am stressed, sad, angry, it doesn’t matter, I find a way to hit my stix,” she says . It was no longer about the fruity flavors, it was about avoiding a headache and achieving the next buzz, temptations that most teenagers are not equipped to handle.
Allen says she used e-cigs to cope as well. “I was sad before I started smoking stix, and it made me feel worse. I had been so against putting harmful stuff into my body, it made me feel really bad about myself,” says Allen. She found herself around e-cigs so often, she felt as if it was inevitable for her to start smoking.
“I never intended on it becoming something I did frequently. My plan was to hit it once and not like it, then I hit a stick and really liked the flavor of it. I just kept telling myself ‘when this one goes out I’ll stop’,” says Allen.