Why I Decided to Quit Vaping

By Alli Lipsit , Staff Writer

I tried vaping for the first time the summer before my freshman year of high school. One of my close friends, a friend I trusted, had a Juul and asked me if I wanted to try it. In a moment of curiosity and temptation, I let the blueberry flavor and alluring clouds of smoke grab me by the wrists and pull me in. I hit it one time, coughed for a straight minute, and decided I never wanted to try vaping again.

I wish, more than anything, I had never tried vaping again. I wish I had remembered a year later how it had burned my throat and made me cough, and how I went home that night and looked at my mom with guilt because even though I had only tried it once, I was lying to her. But for some reason, I didn’t.

As I looked back to the beginning of my nicotine addiction to write this story, I thought about blaming the friend who introduced me to vaping. It would be easy to point the finger, to say they pressured me into doing it, and from there, I couldn’t stop. But that is not the reality. It was my decision to try it that summer, and it was my decision to try it again a year later, and eventually, it was my decision to buy one for myself.

The Juul epidemic has taken over, and I think it’s fair to say more teens are vaping than are not vaping, at least here at West. One recent survey even predicts as many as 1 in 5 teens are vaping in America.

I was one in five, and I’m sure that many of you reading this article are as well.

I hope that by the end of this, I can convince you to avoid vaping, or if it’s too late for that, to quit.

About a year after I tried vaping for the first time–the summer before my sophomore year of high school–Juul started to become even more prominent. It was a rare occasion when I would walk into the bathroom, and a girl or a group of girls wouldn’t be vaping. Looking back on it now, I feel that this influenced my usage because it seemed as if vaping was so normal. Which it was … and still is. To me, the practice had become normalized. If everyone was doing it, it couldn’t be that bad, could it?

If you’ve rationalized vaping this way, you’ve already made your first mistake.

By the beginning of sophomore year, I was addicted. I had a friend, another close friend, who was selling their Juul. Since we were so close, I got a discount: The Juul battery and charger for just ten dollars. Starter kits for Juuls usually range between 20-30 dollars and come with a pack of four pods. For me, pods were only five dollars. Before long, I was spending twenty dollars a week or more on pods.

For some clarification on just how much that is, one pod is equivalent to one pack of cigarettes. I went through a pack a week, with a pack containing four pods.

So that’s about four packs of cigarettes per week.

By the end of the school year, I had blown through almost all of the money I had made working on the weekends. The minute I ran out of pods, I already had at least a five in my pocket to feed my addiction. Hence the first reason I decided to quit vaping: it was robbing me.

And not just of my money. Sure, I was broke trying to keep up with my nicotine addiction, but I was also starting to feel and see the effects vaping. For starters, my skin began to get really bad. I would get sporadic breakouts whenever I tried to quit, which I found odd because I had never really had acne before I started to vape. I linked it to teen hormones and didn’t think about it again until recently when I read an article that mentioned bad acne breakouts that could be correlated to withdrawal from nicotine. Which might not be true, but who doesn’t hate acne?

Lucky for my face, my periods of withdrawal were short; the constant feelings of anxiety and apprehension I would get without my Juul always led me back to square one. The shaky limbs, bad breakouts, and lack of concentration went away when I had my Juul.

My addiction influenced my athletic performance, as well. I’m a two-season athlete, but more like three since track and field has an indoor and an outdoor season. By the end of my sophomore cross country season, my typical gasps for air in between workouts evolved into irregular wheezing during running. By the time track season rolled around, I could feel my lungs giving out during practice, and I began to slow down. It wasn’t unusual for me to experience pain in my chest when running. That track season, I beat my personal best times from the year before maybe once, possibly twice. I should have been beating my bests almost every meet.

My lungs should have been fighting off rigorous workouts to build my stamina and breathing strength, but instead, they were fighting off a severe nicotine addiction from the God knows how many blueberry smoke clouds I exhaled.

One of the most common misconceptions high school students have about vaping, beyond its normalization, is that athletes — or people who work out and keep healthy lifestyles — will be fine. Keeping fit should somehow compensate for inhaling juice. This is the mindset I had.

But Juul does not discriminate. Juul doesn’t care if you play volleyball, basketball, and soccer, or if you’re in choir and doing breathing exercises regularly. Juul does not care that your best friend has been doing it for the past two years and hasn’t experienced chest pain or other symptoms of possible lung failure (yet). Juul only cares about roping you in, and when I say you, I mean teenagers in general, to make money off of you.

The sad reality is that vaping is common, very common. Nicotine is easy to get, various shops all over Chicago won’t ask for IDs when an underage high school student walks in to buy a pack of mango pods or a strawberry lemonade Stik, and friends won’t say no when you ask to hit their blueberry Posh.

I cannot be the one to convince you to quit. If you want to quit, if you truly care about your health and your future, then you will want to quit, and you will at least try to do it on your own terms, even if it takes more than one try.

And this is exactly what I decided to do. This past summer, as news of hospitalizations began to spread,  I decided it was finally time to quit. I had been wasting my money, performing poorly in athletics, my grades were rapidly depleting because I couldn’t focus without a Juul in my hand, and worst of all, I was still lying about it to people I love, like my mom.

With all that being said, I would like to acknowledge the argument being made that we cannot be sure that vaping is the reason behind these sudden deaths and ICU visits. It’s true; we cannot 100% guarantee that vaping is the problem here, it is too early on into the trend to decide for sure. The way I like to look at this uncertainty is the same way our grandparents and other family members looked at cigarettes.

It was not until the 1950s and 1960s that the dangers of cigarette smoking really started to come out. 

It doesn’t take a math genius to figure out that means that for 30 years, people smoked cigarettes believing they weren’t harmful. Now cigarettes are credited with tens of thousands of deaths annually.

Our generation is stuck with the vaping epidemic, but in a way, we also got lucky. We’re getting these clues early on, which is a luxury early cigarette smokers didn’t get. We should listen to the early warning signs. The medical scares we’re getting just five years into the epidemic should make us realize our recklessness.

Quitting vaping is a hard process, nicotine is a highly addictive chemical, and as high school students, it’s going to be a chemical we’ll see a lot of. Even for me, it’s been a process. I have had my moments of weakness. You’ll have to be able to walk into a party, a friend’s car, and even into a Niles West bathroom and see someone vaping and keep your promise to yourself.

In the end, it’s your health and your life at risk, and that’s not something I’m comfortable with anymore.