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“Kids will always find a way around it. They may have that cool uncle that would supply them,”

At high schools around the country, the use of electronic cigarettes has become an alarming trend, especially since the Centers for Disease Control has identified hundreds of health problems associated with “vaping.”

Students say vaping is also a problem at high schools in Peoria.

Nash Knowlton, a recent graduate of Ironwood High School, said students, including his friends, used electronic cigarettes on the high school campus regularly when he was a student there. 

“It was really common. After school, you’d see like six kids, in your friend group, and they’d pull out their mods (vaping devices) and just start blowing away. I’m like, ‘You guys are just wasting your lives,’” Knowlton said. 

Now a freshman at Glendale Community College, Knowlton worries vaping might not be safe.

Vaping is the process of inhaling a vapor produced by an electronic cigarette that usually contains nicotine, solvents and flavorings. The Trump administration said in September it plans to ban the sale of flavored, non-tobacco electronic cigarettes.

According to the CDC, 13 around the country have died due to breathing illnesses associated with electronic cigarettes. There are also 805 confirmed and probable cases of vaping-related lung disease in the United States. 

Ironwood and Sunrise Mountain high schools are two of the 42 schools in the Peoria Unified School District. In an email response, the district told the Peoria Times it is “focusing efforts on student safety and well-being, which includes more student and parent education about the dangers of vaping. 

“We have held presentations in conjunction with local law enforcement and continue to pursue efforts that build awareness for our students.”

The district also said it had 279 tobacco violations in the 2017-18 academic year —and 57 so far this school year. 

According to a recent national survey published in the New England Journal of Medicine, 1 in 9 high school seniors vape nicotine on a near-daily basis. 

Alexandria Shaw and Mariah Bradley, who recently graduated from Glendale High School, said electronic cigarettes were a “big problem” on their campus.

The two freshmen at GCC recalled one of the measures the school took to prevent students from vaping.

“They had to close the restrooms,” Bradley said. “They had one restroom open and it was by the office so teachers could see who was going in and out.” 

Glendale High School did not respond to requests for comment. 

Both the Glendale Union High School and Maricopa County Community College Districts alike have zero-tolerance policies in place for vaping or smoking. Detection can be difficult as vaping can be odorless, particularly compared to cigarette smoking.

On Sept. 23, the City of Goodyear passed an ordinance raising the age to purchase tobacco and vaping products to 21. It was the first city in the Valley to make such a move. The state minimum age to purchase tobacco and e-cigarettes is 18. 

If other cities follow in those footsteps, Shaw said teens will find a way around it. 

“If you raise it to 21, why hold them back? Because they’re going to do it anyway. They’re definitely going to find a way around it, and that’s going to create a problem. It’s going to be a bigger issue than what it is now,” she said. 

Knowlton doesn’t think raising the age is the best bet either. “Kids will always find a way around it. They may have that cool uncle that would supply them,” he said. 

“It’s not the solution. The solution is to just get rid of the product,” Knowlton said.