• Patrick Fraser

Inside Citadel's Vaping Crisis

This article was written over the course of several weeks, and those interviewed have had their names changed in order to protect their identities from being exposed to the school administration.

We’ve all seen it, we’ve all smelt it. At any given point in the day, if you are walking down one of the hallways at Citadel, you can be certain that there is someone vaping close by. Perhaps they’re in the washroom, or doing it down their shirt or sleeve, or in the back of class, or even out in the open, flaunting their devil-may-care attitude for all to see. It has become so widespread and prosaic that a teacher is now placed outside every washroom during each block, often with an expression of sorrow written on their faces, as if a dementor has passed by.

In the eyes of the JoMo administration, vaping has become an epidemic at Citadel High School. Chooching is prevalent in every social clique at the school: all three grades do it, both IB and academic, jocks and skivs alike. How did this come about? The Times decided to find out. We went undercover to learn the ways of those in the know. By donning a white Champion hoodie, khaki joggers, a black New York Yankees flat cap, white Converse, a Herschel bag, and armed to the teeth with dragon tang vape juice, we sought to understand this bizarre fad.

Vaping has become a popular trend at the school. In a poll of grade 12 students conducted by The Times, a whopping 85% said that they had vaped before. Furthermore, almost 58% of respondents also told us that they had vaped at the school. Obviously, there is room for error in the poll (small sample size and only grade 12 students were questioned) but grade 12s largely set the trends at the school, meaning that what they do the other grades will also do.

Citadel didn’t spawn the chooch craze, far from it, it is a microcosm of the culture, but it did bring the vape community into the light of day and out of the shadows. However, to fully understand vaping, one must go to a variety of locations, from within Citadel, to the Line, suburban living rooms, Springvale basements, North End hangouts, and junior high schools around the city. It’s systemic, it starts at schools like Central or Gorsebrook, where there is no legislation in place to prevent vaping. Thus, it then quickly spreads to the home, where it is then normalized, and by then the Citadel staff can do nothing.

But what do all the vaping expressions mean? The terminology behind vaping can be confusing to even the sharpest minds, often leaving TOK students at a loss for words when they are met with the slang terms. Phrases such as "pass the chooch", "chucking up phat clouds", "don't burn the coil", "JUUL room", are but a few of the myriad that can be heard around the school. But what are all of these things? For starters, a "vape" is simply slang for an e-cigarette, and a “chooch” is a vape. The difference between e-cigarettes and cigarettes is that e-cigs use water vapour and not smoke as the inhalant. This water vapour can come in various flavours and each of these contain various nicotine amounts.

Of late, the traditional vape has become basic due to overuse, and thus students have escalated to stronger “nic” quantities. This escalation comes in the form of JUULs and Breezes, which can go up to 50 nic quantity. The Breeze is the Canadian rip-off of the JUUL, owing to the JUUL not being sold in the country. The ingenious design of the two lends itself to pseudo intellectuals and mouth-breathers alike: all you have to do is inhale, no button pushing needed. Refilling juice pods is also easier, and they have the appearance of a USB stick, making concealment from school staff easy. This has led many ComTech students to ponder why there are so many computers in the JUUL room.

Cigarettes are now almost non-existent, those who inhabit the Line are increasingly becoming an endangered species, replaced by washroom-dwelling grade tens; often, a pack of a dozen of them can be seen crowded round a urinal, sharing between them a single Breeze. The school is powerless to stop it, their only deterrent is sending out Citadel strong man and officer of the chooch police Mr. McDougall on patrol to confiscate vapes. Even if the bathroom stall occupants are driven out, they just go home and vape in their basement, hotboxing it to get a massive heady before going off to JV soccer practice.

I was curious and decided to get some answers. I went undercover and headed into the eye of the storm: the second floor boys’ washroom. There, I met with a grade 12 student who goes by the alias Vape Lord to protect his identity from school staff.

When did you first start vaping?

I first started vaping in grade 10.

Which product do you prefer: the vape or the Breeze?

Neither, I use the Novo. It’s similar to the Breeze but better.

How do you get around the school’s anti-vape policy?

Whenever I’m in the washroom, I just listen for the sound of keys in the hallway, or just do it when I’m not at school. The school doesn’t do a good job of policing it.

When I attempted to enter the washroom the other day to meet a source for an interview, I was met with a cloud being blown in my face. The weather pattern alerted nearby vape officers of my source's presence, and before I could ask any questions, his vape was confiscated. As he was taken away, he yelled incoherently about how he “knew his rights” and that this was in violation of Section 9 of the Charter of Rights and Freedoms.

Anti-vaping deterrents are only strong if they are enforced. In the early months of the year, owing to tough polices, it felt as if the administration was going to eradicate the vaping crisis, but now it appears that the epidemic has only grown. The school is powerless to stop vaping, chooching, breezing, JUULing, or anything of the sort. The only way it can overcome this problem is to ruthlessly expand the number of police officers at the school to a sensible number, say, 500, so that they can monitor the halls. Until then, Citadel students will continue to take chooch breaks during class and to monopolize stalls for vaping purposes.