15 March 2022
By: Ari Katz – Source: The Sydney Morning Herald
It started as a novelty, a bit of harmless fun. The snap, crackle and pop of each nicotine-fuelled hit was exciting, enticing. The headspin was a new experience. We felt rebellious, revolutionary, cool. Vapes then started appearing at parties, the beach, the cinema.
But when friends started vaping regularly in the bathrooms at school, it became clear this device – resembling a coloured pen, bright and slim (concealing the fusion of wires, batteries and chemical compounds) – was here to stay.
During assessment-intensive periods at school, vapes act as a coping mechanism, a seemingly indispensable form of stress relief. Is this really the way we want our youth to be dealing with the challenges life throws at them?
The highly addictive, flavour-filled substances in vapes are engineered by profit-hungry foreign manufacturers who, I fear, pay little attention to the long-term health implications of their product.
What began as youthful self-discovery and experimentation has descended into a state of unfettered addiction among the adolescents – boys and girls – I know, some as young as 12. This is because vapes are too accessible, too easy. For me, having seen this obsessive relationship with vaping in all types of peers, including those who excel in sport or academic work, the extent of the issue becomes overwhelmingly clear. Vape addiction does not discriminate – everyone is susceptible.
So why should you care?
The full negative health implications of vaping are as yet unknown. But the concern is that the recurrent inhalation of chemicals will do significant damage to the underdeveloped lungs and brains of teen vapers. However, from my perspective, far worse is the impact that this dependency and incessant craving has on the mental and social wellbeing of my peers. Teen brains aren’t prepared for the burden of addiction.
We know adults are largely oblivious to the scale of the problem, so how can we ask for help when we know the first reaction of the unprepared parent is likely to be a reprimand rather than a helping hand?
The cognitive dissonance of knowing vaping is harmful, while not being able to stop, is taxing on the mental wellbeing of adolescents. We have little experience of addiction and are not taught to deal with it. We know it’s harmful, we know it’s toxic, but we can’t stop.
Vaping is no longer a fad; the fun has been over for months now. From what I can see in my circle, few people who vape actually want to vape.
Government education campaigns will be largely impotent against the vape culture because addiction, by nature, does not just end by the push of a button. It takes personalised support, resources and encouragement to curb the dependency. Where is all this when we need it?
Vulnerable, developing brains are suffering at the hands of an insidious device, yet this challenge is only now starting to receive attention.
Seeing friends and peers suffer is shattering. This is Australia’s future we are talking about.
Ari Katz is a high school student in Sydney’s Eastern Suburbs