Photoillustration: whirling smoke (Savannah Hauglum)
Photoillustration: whirling smoke

Savannah Hauglum

Vape Clouds Across Big Sky

Inhaling Addictive Substances: "Once you start, there's no quitting," says one student.

May 31, 2018

A group of teens hurry into one of their friend’s brand new Mazda 3. Once the car is on and rolling, someone pulls out a USB. Except it’s not a USB.

The windows roll down and the cool wind fills the car. Lips are on the tip of the machine inhales for seconds that seem like minutes. Nothing happens at first. The vapor is still held in their mouth until they let go and blow donut-like shapes. The wind coming in and out of the car immediately disperses the smoke after a few seconds. It’s a vape. The vape gets passed around the group of friends and the cycle continues.

In Montana, the number of students who vape is increasing. Many do not know the effects and potential withdrawal symptoms of the e-cigarettes.

And beyond the harmful effects of vaping, many young students do not know the new laws that are soon to come, in school and out of school.

The new laws took place in April. According to Samantha Arcand, the Drug Resource Counselor, the laws will be strict and have many severe consequences. “Some businesses won’t allow any type of cigarette within twenty five feet of their doors, and that may include the business right next door. Vapes will be harder to use in the public.”

Even in most parks, playgrounds, sports fields, and many bodies of waters where animals live, vapes will be banned.

Not only will vaping be hard to do outside, but even harder inside buildings. The new law will completely ban vaping indoors.

While the public laws get stricter, school laws will be much more severe than they are now. Before April, if a student was caught with a vape or juul, they received an MIP (minor in possession), a fine ranging from fifty to one hundred dollars and community service.

Since April, the minimum fine is one hundred dollars, as well as more hours of community service and an additional MIP. Montana is the ninth state to pass laws on vapes.

Jane*, a student at Big Sky, vapes on a daily basis. She vapes outside of school, not wanting to get others involved or have them breathe in the vapors. “I usually vape twice a day. Mostly when I’m out at lunch and after school when I’m with friends.”

But she’s not the only one to vape. She says most of her friends’ vape as well. “At least 80-90 percent of my friends’ vape.” According to a poll taken in Freshman English classes, more than half have tried vaping at least once or more, and almost a third do it with friends or on a daily basis. A sophomore English also took the poll and less than a half do it with friends and tried vaping at least once or more.

School Resource Officer Nathan Mattix says that vape companies have an easy way of influencing and targeting the youth. “Many tobacco companies target kids by having different flavors that taste like candy or something tropical.”

Actually, tropical flavors or fruity flavors are the most dangerous to inhale. In fact, these flavors have an ingredient called Diacetyl. It’s a liquid that is usually yellow or green that is intensely butter flavored. Although it is safe to eat, it is extremely dangerous to inhale when heated.

Arcand also agrees that vape advertising isn’t hard. “Gas stations usually have ads showing vapes, juuls and many other different types. Not only are gas stations advertising, but friends talking about vaping really spreads curiosity among the youth population.”

For Jane, she says her experience isn’t as different as other students. “No one really pressured me. My friends were doing it and it caught my interest. Since they were doing it, I wanted to do it too.”

Many students across Missoula vape, but do not know the dangers of vaping. Jane says that she knows some, but not all. Including her friends, they chose to ignore the warnings. Many pass it off as a “party trick” or “just for fun.”

Some withdrawal effects of vaping include headache, nausea, irritability, sleep deprivation and many other physical reactions. Arcand says, “It really just depends on how much you take when you decide to quit.”

In fact, because of vaping, e-cigarettes are on the rise. Yet because it is so new, there are hardly any statistics on vaping. But there are many different types of vapes that have very different model types and do different things.

First of all, they all dispense vaporized nicotine, but the standard vape has batteries in it while a MOD doesn’t need batteries and doesn’t contain any electricity. Then there is a Juul. It looks like a USB which students can easily carry around. It works like a normal vape but has pods of nicotine and flavors unlike the normal vape where you manually have to drop the liquid into the device.

Although there are many different models of vapes, there is one type that is called a marijuana pen. It has the same features of a Juul. It looks just like a USB, but instead of dispensing nicotine, its weed. It is most commonly used at parties.

Jane says that she really enjoys vaping, but she doesn’t want anyone else to get into it. “I really don’t like seeing anyone getting into vaping, so that’s why I don’t vape in front of anyone who doesn’t do it because once you start, there’s no quitting.”

*names have been changed to protect our source’s identity


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