Initially, when I heard that use of e-cigarettes was on the rise in our middle schools, I wasn’t particularly concerned.
That’s because I — like most of you — was confused by what an electronic cigarette actually was.
Wrongly, I imagined that an e-cigarette was like, well, an email. Kids must be sending some kind of weird but harmless messages via their computers or texting them on their phones.
You know, like a picture of the Marlboro man in mid puff, or a video of a hazy 1970s-era barroom, or a Photoshopped image of themselves with a fake cigarette sticking out of their mouths.
No idea why they would do that — kids being kids — but seemed relatively harmless.
I pictured a robot smoking a cigarette, or a kid holding up a cell phone to his lips — with a clear picture of a lit cigarette on the screen — and pretending to smoke it.
At worst, I thought these mythical e-cigarettes would make a few harmless puffs of smoke come out of the computer, causing parents to have a brief meltdown. Classic joke!
Needless to say, I may have misunderstood the issue.
E-cigarettes, it turns out, are battery-operated devices that heat liquid nicotine into a pleasant-smelling vapor.
Millions of people use them, and hundreds of different manufacturers make them, in a variety of colors and kid-friendly flavors, like chocolate, strawberry, watermelon, licorice, candy cane, Thin Mint, Tootsie Roll, bubble gum and Cinnamon Toast Crunch.
It’s no wonder that use of e-cigarettes by young people doubled between 2011 and 2012 and continues to increase exponentially. At some local school tomorrow morning, there will be kids vaping, even while class goes on.
This is because kids will do whatever they think they can get away with when our backs are turned.