I-Team: School on Long Island Combats Vaping ‘Epidemic’ Among Students

What to Know

  • If you want to get an idea of how the vaping crisis is shaping our schools, look no further than East Hampton High School on Long Island
  • “This is a massive epidemic. It dwarfs anything else,” said East Hampton High principal Adam Fine
  • Fine estimates 50 to 70 percent of his student body have used vaping devices

If you want to get an idea of how the vaping crisis is shaping our schools, look no further than East Hampton High School on Long Island.

“This is a massive epidemic. It dwarfs anything else,” said East Hampton High principal Adam Fine. “We’re seeing kids react differently. We’re seeing sluggish kids, hyper kids, we’re seeing kids get sick.”

Fine estimates 50 to 70 percent of his student body have used vaping devices. He blames social pressure and deceitful marketing from e-cigarette companies.

Juul devices, which look like USB drives, are easy to conceal in a sleeve or pocket. They emit vapor that smells like candy or perfume, making it easy for students to smoke discreetly in hallways, bathrooms or even classrooms - when teachers aren’t looking.

Fine has drafted new health programs and hired substance abuse counsellors, but, he says that attempts to stop the epidemic aren’t feasible without taking funding from other programs.

“I didn’t budget for tutoring, suspensions, cessation programs. We are allocating assets that could be used elsewhere,” says Fine. “No one is pumping money into schools to address the vaping problem.”

There have been 47 vaping-related deaths nationwide just this year. Two of those have been in the state of New York. To combat the vaping crisis, Fine has assembled a student task force, called the Breathe In Change Initiative. These students are vocal and visit schools and town halls to discuss the dangers of vaping with students and parents.

“Parents are so under the notion that it’s not their kid,” says senior Olivia Davis, a task force member. “It’s the honors kids, the AP kids, the student athletes, the kids who aren’t doing well in school.”

“When we were freshman we didn’t know anything about it, research came out later and now we know how detrimental this is for your health,” says senior Samantha Prince of the Breathe and Change Initiative.

“We want to create a nationwide network of non-vapers. We want to show non-vapers at other schools that there are people like them trying to put an end to this epidemic.”

In a statement JUUL labs told the NBC New York I-team that their “customer base is the world’s 1 billion adult smokers and we do not intend to attract underage users.” They also say to combat underage vaping, they have stopped ordering mint flavoured pods and suspended product advertising in the United States.

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