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Drug culture is changing

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Drug culture is changing

A Juul advertisement in the 7-11 on Telegraph Road, only a short walk from Hayfield.

A Juul advertisement in the 7-11 on Telegraph Road, only a short walk from Hayfield.

Lauren Miller

A Juul advertisement in the 7-11 on Telegraph Road, only a short walk from Hayfield.

Lauren Miller

Lauren Miller

A Juul advertisement in the 7-11 on Telegraph Road, only a short walk from Hayfield.

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Thin wisps of smoke arising from a bathroom stall is not a surprising sight in high school; those craving a cigarette during the day have long flocked to the solace of a stall. This ritual, like many other aspects of daily life, has evolved with the influence of new technology as the popularity of devices such as e-cigarettes and vape pens have quietly eclipsed that of the cigarette. While marijuana continues to assert its presence in high schools, vaping allows a new culture of drug use to develop as teens can become increasingly secretive about their usage.

Instead of sneaking a cigarette between periods, teen smokers today can smuggle vape pens, such as the Juul, in classes or hallways with the only evidence being a puff of vapor and a faint scent. The vaping devices are inconspicuous, the different flavors of vapor are enticing and the discreteness of it all appeals to both middle and high schoolers. Vape companies have taken notice of this increased popularity; a vape store signed a lease to enter the Hayfield Shopping Center and provide easily-accessible vaping devices and flavor pods, but dissent from the community prevented it.

In the 1970s, students were blasé about their drug and alcohol use in school. Articles from the Hayfield school newspaper, Farm News, featured teens who discussed drinking during class, smoking in the halls and buying marijuana. Knowing their teachers and peers would read their statements never hindered their openness about any and all recreational drug use. While some are still open, teens today tend to keep quiet about usage, especially when adults are present.

“I think that drugs and alcohol were newer [in the 70s] and not as much was known about the side effects and therefore more socially accepted,” sophomore Saoirse Farrell said. “I think it is different today because more information is known about the dangers and detrimental effects of both drugs and alcohol. I think teens today are more secretive than they used to be.”

Despite the new technology that allows for covert use, not all believe that teens want to keep their use secret, especially those who use marijuana. In 29 states, marijuana is legal for either medical or recreational purposes, and the stigma surrounding those who smoke weed is beginning to shift. Increased legal tolerance for marijuana has not occurred in Virginia, but students still see the effects.

“I don’t really feel that teens are more secretive about the drugs they use, especially now that weed is becoming legal in more states,” sophomore Melanie Hawksworth said. “I know there are people who use drugs to help them focus and get through the day, while others who just do it to look cool.”

Social media pressures teens to fit in, whether it involves marijuana or vaping, and pictures or videos of friends using will likely encourage teenagers to try the drugs for themselves.

The tiny blue light of a Juul can be found at almost every high school and college party, so even if teens are trying to avoid their exposure, it can prove difficult. With flavors such as vanilla, mango and mint and containing as much nicotine as a pack of cigarettes, Juuls are both common and addictive.

The growing popularity of the Juul signifies the new age of drug-related technology in schools. Not only is the device itself inconspicuous, but there are forums and accounts that offer tips on how to vape without being caught. Because they are so new, the lasting health risks of using a Juul are not clear (MensHealth). However, teens need to think about the lasting effects of inhaling the chemicals in the vapor before they use Juuls, despite how cool social media makes them appear.

“I think that pop culture has a role in influencing people to use drugs, but that it is not anything new,” Hawksworth said. “People have been making music about doing drugs since the [modern] music industry started, and now they’re just making more direct allusions to it because it’s become so [popular]. I’m not sure why [using a Juul] is seen as cool or acceptable, but I think it’s just another one of those things that people like to show off about to feel cool. Almost everything people do is to look cool, including drugs.”

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