Local View Column: Stiffer penalties needed to vanquish vaping


After reading the Oct. 2 story, “Youth vaping in Northland may be double state average,” I have to ask: Why isn’t there more of an anti-vaping push in the community? I think it has been well documented that vaping is harmful and extremely addictive. Current measures in place aren't effective enough to discourage vaping. Something must be done to deter vaping; otherwise, an entire generation could get hooked.

I simply don’t believe enough is being done to stop vaping. As the story pointed out, “measures have been adopted at the local level, including in Duluth, where ordinances to restrict the sale of flavored tobacco products and prohibit the sale of tobacco to anyone under the age of 21 were approved within the past two years.” That was a step in the right direction, but have these laws yielded any positive results?

They simply haven’t done enough.

Duluth East Principal Dennette Seboe indicated in the story that an in-house survey at East revealed more than 50% of students there vaped. That’s a large portion of the student population — and that number may be even higher, as some students may have lied to save face.

According to the Minnesota Department of Health, in the last three years, the number of eighth-graders who vape has increased by over 9%, the number of ninth-graders has increased 7%, and the number of 11th-graders has increased by over 5%, the story reported. If ordinances and other measures currently in place were effective, those numbers would be going down, not up.


Even scarier than the increase in vaping is that kids are getting hooked on nicotine at a younger age. This is most likely caused by “high school students … selling their Juul devices to middle school students,” as the story stated. Nicotine is an extremely addictive drug that can generate dependence very early. Middle-schoolers are still developing and are extremely susceptible to addiction. Addiction is never good at any age, but nicotine and the chemicals in vapes could have even more adverse effects on kids.

More than 800 cases of lung injuries caused by vaping have been reported, according to the story, which cited the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

I have cousins who are in middle school or who will be attending middle school. I don’t want them to suffer because of an addiction to something that many people think of as "cool.” It’s not worth it, and something must be done to stop vaping before it spreads any further.

The fix isn’t an easy one. There are a lot of underage kids who are already addicted. However, that doesn't mean nothing can be done. First and foremost, it needs to be more difficult for teens to get their hands on vapes. In addition, there should be harsher consequences for those who are caught vaping, especially on school property. Vapes should be confiscated, and there should be harsher penalties for vaping underage, such as a fine or community service. If adults are found to be selling vapes to underaged kids, they should face even more serious ramifications, including jail time.

Schools, city councils, and state legislatures should all take more action to combat vaping. If more attention is not paid to this issue, it is entirely possible that vaping will continue to spread and harm even more people. Do we as a society really want that?

Wyatt Johnson is a senior at Superior High School.

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Wyatt Johnson

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