“It’s really easy to fall into:” Students open up about their experiences vaping

A common way people quit vaping is to drown their vapes in water to ensure they cant fall back and smoke again.
A common way people quit vaping is to “drown” their vapes in water to ensure they can’t fall back and smoke again.
Sophie Lee

Editors’ Note: Although the topics of vaping, both on and off school property, are mentioned in this article, Drops of Ink does not condone or promote the behavior discussed here, given that, for all students under the age of 21, such activities are illegal. We as a staff believe that it is our duty to report on events and experiences that occur in high school and are aware that while not every student engages in these acts, there are some who do, making this a relevant and worthy topic to discuss. If anyone is negatively affected by this article, we encourage you to seek help from your counselors and/or LST. Since illegal activities and actions that go against the Code of Conduct are discussed in this article, all individuals interviewed were granted anonymity, aside from their grade and gender. 

Sophie Lee

It was an unassuming day in the 6th grade. You heard that one of your friends had a vape, and you were beginning to become curious of what it was. It seemed cool and it smelled good – so what’s the harm?

You took your first puff from a vape. The sweet scent lingered in the air, marking the beginning of a habit. Little did you know, that seemingly harmless moment would set the stage for a struggle against a highly addictive substance.

The data.

According to the 2022 Illinois Youth Survey, a statewide survey that “measures health and social indicators including substance use and perceptions, bullying, school climate, nutrition and physical activity,” 27% of seniors from high schools around Lake County reported that they had vaped in the past year, along with 16% of sophomores. (No data is available for Freshman and Juniors because the survey is administered every two years.)

Additionally, 55% of seniors and 39% of sophomores reported using a common substance in the past year, with the most popular being alcohol, marijuana, and e-cigarettes/vapes. It is likely that both figures are higher due to not every student reporting usage.

Student Resource Officer Mr. Wayne Kincaid believes that the number of underclassmen and people who are vaping in general has increased over his career at LHS, especially post-covid.

I had [confiscated vapes] not necessarily from seniors, but a lot of young underclassmen,” he said. “Use has increased, especially since there’s more access to it.”

According to the CDC, youth use of tobacco products in any form, including e-cigarettes, is unsafe. Such products contain nicotine, which is highly addictive and can cause harm to the developing brains of high school students. 

Using nicotine during adolescence might also increase risk for future addiction to other drugs.

Sophie Lee

Getting hooked.

An anonymous senior first tried vaping in 6th Grade, but didn’t vape regularly until freshman year. 

“I just tried [vaping] and I just kept going,” she said. “I never stopped because I didn’t see the harm in it.”

Being exposed to vaping in middle school is a common theme repeated across many students, but addictions don’t seem to really set in until high school. Since many are immature and highly impressionable during that period of time, getting hooked is relatively easy.

A second anonymous senior first tried vaping during quarantine around the time of freshman year after a friend had introduced her.

“When I first had to vape I hated it,” she explained. “I hated it so much. I just coughed and coughed.”

This is common according to TeensHealth as “first-time smokers often feel pain or burning in their throat and lungs.”

Despite the initial, painful experience of vaping, “it doesn’t take that much time to become addicted to nicotine,” the second senior said. “I remember that night I first hit it, [and] after I hit it a couple of times and I could already feel myself wanting more.”

Another common experience is being introduced or “peer pressured” by friends to give vaping a shot. Some wouldn’t even have done it if it weren’t for their friends.

The first senior explains that “[vaping] is really easy to fall into” because it’s easy to vape when “all of your friends are around and ‘everybody does it.’”

Marketing has also played a huge role in getting extremely young people interested in vapes. According to the University of Auckland, the small size of some of the vapes, some resembling USB devices, and their bright colors proved particularly appealing to young people. 

Companies continued to make the products more appealing, utilizing the same positioning playbook and gimmicks once used by cigarette and tobacco companies to hook people on cigarettes.


Once an addiction has set in, it ends up consuming your life and your routine.

“Your brain gets such a big amount of dopamine from the [vape] that when you wake up in the morning, it’s the first thing you think about and I remember that when I was fully addicted, I had no problem [hitting it],” the second senior said. “I was like, ‘that’s how I’m gonna start my day.’”

But if one doesn’t vape, side effects plague your body.

“I just get really bad headaches, like my head just pounds,” the first senior said. And then after the headaches happen, I just get angry, kinda like when you’re on your period.”

This sets up the brain into a cycle that is extremely hard to break. Now, something that seemed harmless when you were younger and naive will follow you throughout life until you are able to quit.

“I needed it at school. I needed it at work. I needed it before I went to bed,” the second senior said. “It’s literally all you think about.”

What once seemed like a harmless thing at a younger age now has turned into something that is much bigger of a deal.

“No one thinks that [vaping is] cool,” the first senior said. “No one is like, ‘Oh, this is so lit.’”

The second senior believes that while this is true with some, she believes that others don’t care.

“I’ve talked to some people and they’re like, ‘I don’t really care. I’m gonna do what I want.  My body, my choice,’” she said. “And then I’ve talked to some of my friends and they’re like, ‘I know that [vaping] is really bad and I cannot stop or else I literally don’t know what to do with myself.’”

So can’t you just quit?

Why is it hard to quit?

According to the CDC, over time, nicotine changes how your brain works and makes it seem like you need nicotine just to feel okay.

I vape out of necessity because it’s so hard to quit,” the first senior explained. “Everyone I know tries to quit. It’s pretty common for people to struggle [with it].”

The first senior has tried to quit in the past but has been unsuccessful. Her battle with addiction continues.

“It’s just like now to a point where it’s just been in my life for so long that I feel like I have to do it,” she explained. “[I’ve tried to quit] because it’s best for me and I know I have to stop.”

Another barrier to quitting is being exposed to your friends who continue to vape after quitting.

“The hardest part is not changing. In today’s society, I would say that everyone has them,” the second senior said. “Like you go to a party, someone has one. When you go to work, someone has one. When you go to a concert, you can smell it.”

This constant reminder can make it extremely hard to not go back, as vaping may have been in your life for a relatively long time.

Reasons for quitting.

Despite the challenges of addiction, the second senior was able to quit two months ago.

“Imagine your family seeing you at a party and what they would think about you?” she said. “That was like the breaking point because they would think I’m an addict. They would think I’m crazy.”

Vaping can turn into an embarrassment, and those who don’t vape can be especially judgey to those that do.

“I could not run the mile around [Butler Lake],” the second senior said. “The year before that I was the first one to finish. I was the first one to get all my cardio done. And I literally could not do it because of how black and damaged my lungs were.”

The second senior stresses to people who are still struggling that “there’s so many other sources like happiness and dopamine, like seeing someone smile or hearing someone laugh.”

According to the second senior, people who are trying to quit should chew gum and at every point of the day you are wanting to vape “you drink really cold water which gives you a rush and just distracts your brain from the addiction.” 

Even though the first senior wants to eventually quit, she still struggles with the side effects, especially headaches, when she doesn’t vape.

“I don’t want to be a mom who vapes,” she explained.

Quitting is no doubt incredibly hard, but, according to the second senior, the reward is 100% worth it.

“Life is so much brighter when you don’t have a factor that is limiting you from being the best person you can,” she said.

Leave a Comment
More to Discover

Comments (0)

Drops of Ink intends for this area to be used to foster healthy, thought-provoking discussion. Comments are expected to adhere to our standards and to be respectful and constructive. As such, we do not permit the use of profanity, foul language, personal attacks, or the use of language that might be interpreted as libelous. Comments are reviewed and must be approved by a moderator to ensure that they meet these standards. Drops of Ink does not allow anonymous comments, and we require a valid email address. The email address will not be displayed but will be used to confirm your comments.
All Drops of Ink Picks Reader Picks Sort: Newest

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *