Cigarette use may be down among teens, but e-cigs are way, way up

Vaping devices are manufactured to look like anything from makeup to cellphones to flash drives, as seen in this assortment of items provided by Mountain Ridge High School Student Resource Officer James Calderon. “They’re getting really clever on disguising the vapes into looking like everyday items,” he said. [Submitted photo]

Steve Stockmar
Independent Newsmedia

Parents and students should be on the lookout for vaping devices – because school staff is sure watching.

The use of vaping and e-cigarettes is skyrocketing, according to a 2016 report from the U.S. surgeon general, which cited a 900 percent increase in e-cigarette use by high school students from 2011 to 2015.

Debbie Moore, CTE/Teacher on Assignment at Mountain Ridge High School, 22800 N. 67th Ave in Glendale., estimated this summer that the school busts an average of “a juul or vape device a day.”

Staff, including the campus School Resource Officer James Calderon, point out that in 2016 Arizona enacted a law prohibiting minors from buying or possessing electronic vaping devices delivering nicotine.

“Some parents think it’s not even illegal,” Ofc. Calderon said July 18. “A lot of parents don’t even understand it really, and understand the harm it may pose to the health and safety of their child. A lot of these vapes and pods that people are vaping with don’t really fall under regulation of the FDA. So you’re ingesting chemicals (and) who knows how it’s made.”

Students surely have a better idea that the devices are illegal to possess. The industry has trended recently on selling juuls and mods that are virtually impossible at first glance to detect, as they are made to resemble anything from cellphones and thumb drives to makeup.

“You wouldn’t think it’s used for vaping,” said Ofc. Calderon, who has been the Mountain Ridge School Resource Officer since April and was with the Glendale Police Department for 10 years prior to that.

He added that he takes trips to local smoke shops to keep up with the latest decoys on the market.

“They’re getting really clever on disguising the vapes into looking like everyday items.”

Vaping and e-cigarettes are also marketed as a healthier alternative to smoking. The data suggest otherwise.

“Some e-cigarettes marketed as containing zero percent nicotine have been found to contain nicotine,” the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reports. “E-cigarette aerosol is not harmless. It can contain harmful and potentially harmful substances, including nicotine, heavy metals like lead, volatile organic compounds, and cancer-causing agents.”

The CDC further states that e-cigarettes are now the most commonly used tobacco product among U.S. youth. Among current e-cigarette users aged 18-24 years, the CDC states, 40 percent had never been cigarette smokers.That may be the only “good” news in fact.

Traditional cigarette use is indeed trending downward among youth. From 2011 to 2017, cigarette smoking declined among middle and high school students in a national study.

“Put it this way, I haven’t seen or heard students talk about smoking in the traditional sense, like a pack of Marlboros or Newports or things like that. Everything is going to vape, whether it be cigarettes or marijuana or the THC oil in wax – it’s all going to the vape,” Ofc. Calderon explained. “In the couple months I was here (last school year) most of my marijuana cases were either edible or vaping influence; someone under the influence of marijuana but it’s from vaping or eating it.”

Campus staff is prepared to take action during this school year. Ofc. Calderon met with teachers and staff before students report for the 2018-19 school year, which began Tuesday.

“We do some training and discussions about school safety, and vaping is gonna be a topic that we’re going to discuss heavily,” he said. “I have some experts from the Attorney General’s office coming in to do a presentation just to show them the dangers and how big a problem it is in Maricopa County and the country in general.”

Steve Stockmar can be reached at 623-876-2567 or Continue the discussion at

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