WICHITA, Kan. - The American Heart Association says one in five high school-aged kids have vaped. Four high school students in Kansas talked with Eyewitness News about the vaping epidemic.
Will Balandran, a junior in high school, says, "High school is very tough, it's very emotionally, mentally draining. so they do things that they might not necessarily want to do just to kind of feel like they fit in."
"It's not something that we talk to people about but definitely see it all the time," says junior Josie Anderson.
Some teens says it started with just a few teens, but spread quickly. "It's very apparent that a whole bunch of different cliques are bonding over this vaping aspect and doing cool tricks with each other or selling it to each other," says junior Natasha Seneviratne. "It's somehow brought all these cliques together in a really really bad way."
Keane Hauck, a senior, says vaping can be used as an ice breaker. "If you're hanging out with someone who you've not really talk to a bunch and you don't know them very well, it can kind of be like 'hey, here you go. Try my pen. Try my vape.'"
Balandran says he could easily start vaping if he wanted to. He knows a few people he could call to easily attain e-cigarettes. Balandran says some teens get e-cigarettes from older siblings, but sometimes 18-year-old students re-sell them to minors for profit.
Hauck says some kids are open about vaping, while others keep the habit more quiet, but he says every kid he knows who vapes, vapes socially.
Seneviratne says more teens are admitting they wish they never tried vaping. "I see a lot of people on their story being like, 'I'm selling my vape. If you want to buy it just slide up,' and stuff like that because they're concerned about their health."
She thinks teens would be more encouraged to quit if parents and school administrators gave amnesty to teens who are addicted. She says proving treatment would be more successful than punishment. "I feel like more people are worried about the punishment. Obviously the legal punishments, but also the social punishments."
"It's almost like a self-defeating paradigm," Hauck says, "because kids do these things to try to fit in and seem cool, when in reality, it's not really what makes the difference."