Companies that create and sell vaping products like JUULs and e-cigarettes are targeting children — they're making vape pens and e-cigarettes in the shape of lipstick and mascara, and they're even making vaping-compatible sweatshirts that allow students to vape in secrecy, according to a Bakersfield Police officer who spoke to students Monday.
Bakersfield Police Officer Chris Peck advised Garces Memorial High School students about the dangers of vaping during a presentation.
His speech came on the heels of reports from the Kern County Public Health Services Department that there have been three reported vaping-associated hospitalizations in Kern County.
Vaping is when someone inhales an aerosol from a device, like an e-cigarette or a JUUL, that heats a liquid that can contain tobacco, marijuana, cannabidiol or other substances, according to the Kern County Department of Public Health. Vaping has recently been linked to severe breathing problems, lung damage and even death.
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, 37 percent of vaping-associated injuries reported across the country are in children under the age of 21. And in 2018, e-cigarette use among high school students increased by 78 percent, the CDC reported.
That's why it's so important to educate high school students on the dangers, Peck said.
"We all remember being in high school; they're impressionable," Peck said. That's why he's made it a priority to educate students and hopefully prevent them from vaping.
His presentation focused on what could happen if someone chooses to vape — and how vaping actually isn't more healthy than smoking cigarettes. For example, Peck's presentation stated each pod used in a JUUL pen is equivalent to a pack of cigarettes, or 200 puffs.
Later in the presentation, Peck showed pictures of what vaping could do — and how destructive e-cigarettes can be, especially when they explode or malfunction.
"I didn't believe that they could explode," said sophomore J.P. Etcheverry.
Etcheverry listened to Peck's presentation and learned more about how dangerous vaping can be than he thought he would. And although he said vaping isn't very common at Garces, he still believed the presentation was important for prevention.
"Information, I think, is the most important thing," Etcheverry said. "It's disappointing that it's such a widespread issue."
Kelly Olson, dean at Garces, said he hasn't seen any instances of students vaping at Garces this year, but he noted Garces' staff is "not naive to believe it's not going on."
"Our goal here is to protect our students."