Why We are in a Vape Epidemic in Schools (and It Isn’t Ending Anytime Soon)

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Tall Cop Says Stop Newsletter on 2/2022 by Jermaine Galloway

JERMAINE GALLOWAYWe all know what happened in March of 2020 that closed schools and communities. Well, this also impacted the vape “world”. Around June of 2020, even in my reduced travel, I continued conducting scans to see how the pandemic impacted stores carrying many of these products. One glaring void was vape pens on shelves. In multiple stores in the southwest, I had clerks say “they were out of vapes” and especially “popular vapes that can be used for drugs”, including cannabis (or other drugs). I asked one clerk “Why do you think you are out?”. He immediately responded, “I think people have nothing better to do”! Now, some of the vapes were used by adults but some were undoubtedly used by youth or young adults. As I explain in my Tall Cop classes, “Do I think everyone sat at home and got high?” Absolutely not! But do I think some of those who were getting high, drunk etc. increased their substance use? Yes.

Free time, in addition to the other, many pandemic stressors, is one of the worst things a person struggling with addiction can have. Speaking of, let’s turn our focus to youth during the initial phase of the pandemic. Some were alone and isolated at home, unable to receive in-person resources. In other words, some of our kids were in isolation for months, and for those suffering from addiction, alone to use even more.

Another thing to note, during the early part of the pandemic, many of the common nicotine vapes I would see in stores across the country were 300-800 puffs or what we know as “hits”. In mid 2020, I remember finding a vape during a scan in the southwest that contained 1,200 puffs and I thought to myself “wow, that is a lot!”. Fast forward, to late in 2020 and early 2021, many of the stores seemed to be stocked up and not only that – they were stocked with vapes that had 1,000s (NOT HUNDREDS) of puffs!!!!! So what am I finding now? Vapes that contain 1000-10,000 hits! Consistently, a common number of hits that I see in most stores is 2,500-3,500. I see these vapes in smoke shops, vape shops, malls, some alcohol retailers and gas stations. I also noticed a significant decrease in price points. At a time when costs of various products seem to be increasing, the prices of vapes are decreasing. For instance, a vape pen in early 2020 that contained approximate 300 puffs would be around $10. That same $10 today will buy you a vape with 2,500-3,000 puffs. And due to the demand of vape pens, I consistently find them on sale as cheap as $4 TOTAL or buy one get one free etc.

Let’s also discuss vape flavors – from grape to cotton candy – there are many flavors or mixtures of flavors out there. Some vapes still have traditional tobacco flavors but many contain some sort of sweet flavoring. These flavoring are not just specific to nicotine vapes. THC vapes, including the variants, such as Delta 8, Delta 10, CBD etc can be flavored also. Berry Blast, Mango, Blue Raz, Orange Crème, Pomegranate, Icey Banana and Peach Ice Cream… just to name a few of the hundreds of flavors that exist.

In summary, after the initial surge of the pandemic, the vape market has expanded and prices are decreasing. This is important for parents, schools and professionals to understand and track with the evolving trends that we are seeing. To continue to learn more, feel free to forward this newsletter out to colleagues.