Much to the chagrin of the teaching and administration staff of a Dubai-based school, at least four 15-year-old students were found carrying e-cigarettes in their bags during a routine bag check for safety measures.
While talking to Khaleej Times, a teacher, who didn’t want to be named said, “As part of the school’s safety measures, we conduct surprise bag checks of the students. Usually, we find electronic devices such as mobile phones and tablets. We also look for materials that could potentially indicate the child’s mental wellbeing.”
Earlier this month, teachers were startled to stumble upon e-cigarettes in the bags of their students. “Many teachers did not know what they are. They assumed it was a USB stick. After an internet search, it became clear that the students were carrying e-cigarettes or vaping devices,” the teacher added.
Students carrying e-cigarettes to school had to face disciplinary actions. “We immediately alerted their parents and referred them to the school clinic and the counselor,” the school’s supervisor stated.
Several questions have popped into the minds of the teachers, and their parents after the incident. First off, are students selling these vape products to other students who are still minors (under the age of 18), if not, how are they buying them? Are older students helping them get the devices?
Are students vaping on campus? The burning question on everyone’s mind is whether or not the students becoming tobacco addicts by using vape products?
Buying Vape Devices Is Easy
An e-cigarette can be described as a handheld vaporizer that is powered by a battery. It simulates smoking and provides behavioral aspects of smoking. In April this year, Esma (Emirates Authority for Standardisation and Metrology) approved new standards for the nicotine substance used in e-cigarettes, making it easier for retailers to sell vape products online, as well as through retail outlets.
During an earlier interview, the director-general of Esma Abdullah Al Maeeni told Khaleej Times, “We issued the regulation to legalize it, and it will be enforced by mid of April 2019, as the authority is working hard through the development of technical standards and regulations.”
While this came as a relief for adult vapers, the habit transmitted quickly to teenagers who carry vape pens and other vaping products to school. “I caught my 15-year-old son with an e-cigarette last month. However, he does not think it is bad to ‘vape’ because they are not ‘as bad as cigarettes’. He says ‘his friends are doing it too’,” an Asian parent who caught his child vaping said.
Using Flavoured Tobacco Leads to Addiction
A recently conducted study, which was published in a monthly open-access medical journal called Jama Network Open, published by the American Medical Association found that consumers who experience for the first time vaping via flavored materials are more likely to get addicted to using it and with more frequency. According to the research, if a person is introduced to tobacco in the form of a flavor such as an e-cigarette, sheesha, or menthol cigarette, he/she is more likely to continue using it.
Furthermore, the study shows that flavored tobacco products lure more youngsters than older adults. In other words, as people get older, they tend to be less attracted to flavored tobacco products. Aside from that, the report says people who started with flavored e-cigarettes are highly unlikely to quit, on the contrary, they could increase the repetition with time.
What Actions Are Schools Taking to Stop Vaping on Campus?
Citing the growing number of e-cigs found on the school campus, administrators and school counselors are conducting all-encompassing research to figure out how are students purchasing a substance that they are not allowed to bring to school.
Head of operations and HR department at the Springdales School Dubai, Zubair Ahmed, “We have a strict protocol in place on vaping, or even normal cigarettes, that monitors and protects students against such activities. We have done various studies on-campus, and there is a constant checking of false ceilings, toilets, and other such hiding spots for devices.”
The medical department of schools must be actively involved, along with talking with the students to stop them from using the harmful substance, Zubair noted. “Students must be treated with sensitivity and parental involvement is necessary. Furthermore, the school’s student council should become an active part of the school’s privacy and security policies,” he said.
Tobacco or Nicotine Isn’t Safe in Any Form, Say, Doctors
For a long time, e-cigarettes have been lauded as a safer alternative to smoking traditional cigarettes, as well as an effective cessation tool, but doctors debunk this theory. Iyaad Hasan DNP, a certified tobacco treatment specialist at the Cleveland Clinic Abu Dhabi says, “The belief that e-cigarettes are a healthier option to continue or start smoking is a false one. There is no form of tobacco or nicotine use that is safe.”
“These substances were never meant to be in the human body. ‘Less harmful’ is still ‘harmful’ – both to yourself and the people around you. When it comes to smoking, there is no safer option other than quitting entirely or never taking up the habit in the first place.”
Pediatrics and neonatology at Aster Hospital Mankhool, Dr. Santhosh George says, “This is a major area of concern as children could face nicotine dependence in the future, and the children who smoke e-cigarettes can be future candidates who develop habits of conventional smoking.”
“Data suggests that vaping opens a future gateway to conventional smoking by 31 percent as compared to non-e-smokers which is only eight percent. The health problems related to vaping is also attributed to the device itself.” According to medical professionals, respiratory complications are commonly reported, and there has been an increased incidence of cough, chronic bronchitis, and asthma among children,” he noted.
“The device itself can cause problems. There are incidents reported of burns, explosive injuries, chemical injuries,” Dr. George said.
“There have been reports of accidental poisoning in children – the e-cigarette liquid refills which are kept at home are accidentally ingested by children and can be lethal as it contains high-dose of nicotine.”