By Alexa Bleth
A newfound interest in electronic vapor cigarettes is seemingly on the rise at Novato High. Students are finding this new activity relaxing and fun to do at home, and at school.
A refill for a vape pen costs about the same as a pack of cigarettes. However, a vape refill, or pod, lasts longer than a traditional pack of cigarettes.
Vape pens are being used all over Novato, especially in the hands of teenagers. Their size can range anywhere from a big cigar to a standard pen that fits in the palm of your hand.
The higher quality pens range from around $40 to $80. The consumer has to refill their vape pen with pods that are sold separately. The pods usually come in packs of four depending on what vape pen the consumer buys. Pods range anywhere from $10 to $25. The pods are inserted into the pen that hold the nicotine and flavorings involved to create the vapor.
There is still a stronger appeal to vaping because the smell and taste is less invasive compared to cigarettes. It's not the typical smell of tobacco cigarettes. Its distinct sweet smell attracts teenagers.
“It smells like it tastes,” said an anonymous senior at Novato High.
There are several flavors to choose from, depending on the pen and company. When cigarette smoke leaves the smoker's mouth, it gives off a strong ashy tobacco scent, while the smell of vaping does not stick to clothing or make a user’s breath smell.
According to Electronic Cigarette Consumer Reviews, one vape pod has less nicotine than a pack of cigarettes, but this does not mean that it is any less addictive. In a 1 mL pod containing 18 mg of pod fluid with 50% nicotine present in the vapor, the consumer would be ingesting about 9 mg of nicotine.
“I'm addicted, I haven't had it for three days. I'm depressed,” said an anonymous junior at Novato High.
Students seem to be unaware of the side effects on their health from vaping.
Health risks consist of lung cancer due to inhalation of the vapor. This smoke that comes out of the vape device could also damage brain cells which may have an impact on the brain development of teenagers.
This new trend has gotten several Novato students in trouble with administration.
The minimum age requirement is 21, which means teens are using vape pens illegally. Most teens who have purchased these products use a fake ID or have an older sibling buy it for them at a local gas station. The only age verification needed on a vaping website is entering a birthdate over the age of 21.
By law, if minors are caught or reported, they could face a $200 fine and up to 50 hours of community service. The student might also be sent to court, and parents are now required to accompany their child to an awareness program.
Many kids are being caught on school campus with the vape brand, JUUL. During the recent earthquake drill at Novato High, one junior had his vaping pen taken away by administration and was sent to peer court for his punishment. It is important to note that the vape pen was in his hand, but the student was not using it.
If caught possessing a vape pen on school property, the punishment is decided by the restorative justice committee composed of Novato High students. If caught vaping, the punishment is suspension.
“I like doing it because it calms your nerves and a lot of people do it,” said an anonymous junior at Novato High.
Students can be seen vaping in various places including school, around school, and at home. One of the most popular places in Novato to buy a vape pen is the Loop, a local gas station located on the corner of South Novato Blvd. and Rowland Blvd.
“I've seen them vaping on sidewalks, bus stops, and outside the Loop,” said Timothy Mahoney, a History teacher at Novato High. “It’s a bad decision on their part.”