Ottawa·Point of View

Vaping an 'epidemic,' Ottawa high school student says

Grade 12 student Dante Caloia calls vaping an "epidemic" at West Carleton Secondary School, and wants students to realize the impact of inhaling flavoured nicotine.

'They say it's harmless, but I don't think it is'

Dante Caloia is a Grade 12 student at West Carleton Secondary School. (Hallie Cotnam/CBC)

I'm a Grade 12 student in Ottawa, and there's a problem with my generation. I see it every day at school. I think vaping has become an epidemic.

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If you don't know what vaping is, it's when you inhale and exhale the vapour produced by an e-cigarette or similar device. The liquid inside can contain different concentrations of nicotine. The flavours are endless, with anything from coffee to blueberry available for purchase — flavours that seem cool or attractive to people my age. 

If you search YouTube for "vape tricks," there are lots of videos that can also help explain the appeal. Instagram-famous adults will use their vapes to create miniature tornadoes or blow rings, further mesmerising the younger generations interested in social media.

Vape trick videos are popular on YouTube. (Posted to Youtube by vAustinL )

When I go to school, I see kids as young as Grade 9 skipping class or going into the bathroom to take a hit from a vape. My worry is that this creates an addiction. I know several people my age who can't go a few minutes without shaking and craving their vapes. They say it's harmless, but I don't think it is.

The fact that kids are doing this at school is another problem. I have often walked into the bathroom and seen kids huddled in a circle passing their vapes around. Sometimes I come in and my eyes instantly hurt from the clouds of nicotine and chemicals that are left in the air. Some kids started calling the bathroom the "Juul room" after a popular brand of vape.

Students outside West Carleton Secondary School show off their e-cigarettes. (Hallie Cotnam/CBC)

Just today I saw something so disturbing, I decided to do something. I saw a boy in Grade 10 walking in front of me to use the washroom, I assumed. He then proceeded to double over and throw up all over the wall and the floor. He then staggered to the stall and vomited all over it as well. I have seen other students vomit in garbage cans, too.

I think parents and adults are oblivious to this epidemic that's raging through our generation.

Pediatricians have warned about vaping and liquid nicotine overdose, which can cause vomiting. Kids at school call this "nicking out."

I think parents and adults are oblivious to this epidemic that's raging through our generation. Vaping is not allowed at schools, but people do it anyway, and I think more needs to be done to stop it.

This vape trick video has over eight million views on YouTube. (Posted to youtube by vAustinL)

To be honest, I've tried it myself at a party. I didn't like it, but I could also see why some kids would be drawn to it. 

The administration has started an anti-vaping committee at West Carleton based on my suggestions. Ideally, the committee will spread the word that students and teachers are fed up. I hope that hearing about the risks of nicotine will help convince students not to vape — especially if they're hearing it from other kids rather than from a teacher or other adult.

Dante Caloia is a Grade 12 student at West Carleton High School and a member of the anti-vaping committee.

Students who vape

Not everyone agrees with Dante. CBC Ottawa's Hallie Cotnam dropped by West Carleton Secondary School to speak with students vaping outside. Have a listen: